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Whew! You’ve made it-to a new dawn, a new century, a renewed purpose. After taking stock of your current job and career focus, you’ve set your sights on a plan of action (see “Reevaluating Your Career Plan,” November 1999, and “Focus on Your Goal,” December 1999) and determined the direction for the next phase of your career. Whether that means you’ve decided to stay with your current company, move on to a new workplace or consider returning to a former employer, there are proven techniques to help you succeed.
Let’s say you’ve decided to stay where you are. One of the best and most overlooked ways to advance in your company is to form an alliance with your boss by establishing and maintaining an open line of communication. In his book, Beyond Performance: What Employees Really Need to Know to Climb the Success Ladder (New Perspectives, $20), Roland D. Nolen says communication with your manager-even when you are a manager-is key. “You must always keep your manager informed. Managers live on status information. If you’re not telling your manager what’s happening, he or she has no way of knowing what’s going on with you-and no way to pass that information on to his or her boss.” He suggests interacting often and keeping him or her apprised of your activities.
While forming an alliance with your higher up can be mutually beneficial, it can also be challenging, especially if you previously worked together as peers. Robert MacAlpine of Northeast Utilities in Berlin, Connecticut, found that out when his co-worker of 27 years, Jean-Claude Bazelais, was promoted and became his boss. As peers, they could laugh when Bazelais’ interactive directing style conflicted with MacAlpine’s more analytical one. “It is almost as though we were standing on reverse sides of a convex lens,” muses Bazelais. Now as boss and direct report, their styles were getting in the way.
Bazelais suggested that he and MacAlpine work with an executive coach to iron out their communication styles and identify and capitalize on MacAlpine’s behavioral strengths while minimizing their potential conflicts. MacAlpine found that he could be more effective if he became more understanding and open to others’ way of doing things. Bazelais, on the other hand, found that he needed to be more patient and interact more with MacAlpine both before and after departmental meetings. The shared information, MacAlpine found, would solidify his partnership with his boss and help his career.
Suppose, however, you are at the point where you don’t enjoy what you are doing where you are and just getting to work is a challenge. Your goal is to change companies. “When changing companies, you need to follow your heart,” says Peggy Wolff, president of Wolff Consulting Group in Seattle. “But do some groundwork to make sure you are marketable. Expand your networking to find out what the marketplace is looking for and what they are paying for. This is no time to read ads; it’s time to get out and meet people. You want to