No one will care as much about your career as you do! To climb the corporate ladder successfully, you need to implement enhanced career-building strategies. One of these is increasing your influence. But how? You’ll need to increase your visibility within your organization ASAP! By doing this, you’ll insert yourself into the inner workings of the company, making you irreplaceable.
I hold the unofficial record for most new roles as a young professional. This has allowed me to create and learn from a diversified, world-class global business experience. I’ve worked for numerous accounting firms and public companies, both large and small, from Miami, Fla.; to Houston, Texas; to Melbourne, Australia; back to Miami; and now Dallas, Texas. And I’ve been in departments from external audit, to internal audit, to external audit, to financial reporting, to controllership and back. I attribute much of my career success to my ability to build and maintain relationships.
I felt a tremendous buildup of excitement once I completed my most recent job search process. I was extremely eager to join a fast-growing global mobile payments company at the executive level for which I knew I had the perfect skills to make a profound and lasting impact. My first day was a whirlwind: meeting interesting new people, completing my onboarding activities, and being immediately given the responsibility to solve difficult and complex financial reporting problems with tight deadlines. Fortunately, I was prepared to handle these tasks. But it has been my ability to influence and build a network that has been most important to get to this point in my career. The following roadmap will help you bolster your influence.
Your preparation for building critical relationships begins during the job interview process. Surprised? Most candidates don’t spend enough time and effort to identify and develop critical relationships during the interview process. Essential questions that are often ignored or overlooked during the interview include: “What relationships do you feel are most important to build for a person in this role to be successful?” or “What individuals within the organization should someone in this role seek out to collaborate with in order to exceed expectations?” The answers to these questions will provide you with priceless insight into the inner workings of the company. It’s the follow-up on these key questions that will separate future finance leaders from the average employee. I’ve always made it a point to immediately write down all my notes after the interview and implement a follow-up plan to stay in regular contact with key individuals once I’ve been offered the position and accept it.
Once you are in your new role, you must build on the relationships identified during the interview process. Obtain the organization chart from Human Resources so you can identify individuals you haven’t met who may be integral to your influence-building strategy. Mastering internal networking is the most difficult of all relationship-building activities. Most employees don’t invest the necessary amount of work and aren’t being creative enough to build new working relationships. They are too bogged down in their new work responsibilities to even think about anything else. And the select few who do begin the relationship-building process often lose sight of the continual need to nurture the relationship to keep it productive. This can’t be overstated: When you invest the time and energy to provide insights to help solve others’ problems, the people you’ve helped will be more likely to assist you in the future.
In practice, I set a goal to establish a new connection each of my first 10 days in a new role. I allocate at least one hour per week to walking around the office and sending e-mails to introduce myself. I often start with LinkedIn to find coworkers who share similar interests. But I make sure that I first discuss my communication plan with my supervisor to prevent any misunderstanding or, worse, accidentally offending someone. You should do the same!
Fortunately, most of your colleagues will want to see you be successful in your new role. Nevertheless, it gets more difficult for you to ask for help as time goes by, which is why it’s so important to use your first 10 days to focus on building strategic alliances. I strongly recommend that you set a goal of taking at least one different person from your organization to lunch each day and, of course, always offer to pay! Don’t limit yourself to inviting only your team or department as you can use this time to learn from those in other functions about unique projects that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about or be exposed to.
Now you’ve taken my advice and requested lunch or coffee with a fellow employee. What do you talk about? Ask for help. Ask them about their expertise. If you can get them to talk about their profound work experiences, they will thoroughly enjoy it and think of you positively. Just don’t forget to ask them for their preferred method for continuing the communication so you can keep the relationship active and mutually beneficial. Think of each of these early social interactions as building trust, creating an ally, and even establishing a mentoring-like relationship that’s valuable to both parties. Ideally, within the first 10 days on your new job you will have gained at least one trusted work friend with whom you can consult to provide you with objective guidance and challenge you when necessary.
IMA LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
The IMA® Leadership Academy provides leadership opportunities for all members. From leadership assessment to leadership courses offered in person as well as through WebEx to participation opportunities in mentoring, be it reverse or traditional, the IMA Leadership Academy can help you meet your leadership goals and improve your leadership skills. For more information, please visit the Leadership Academy website at www.imanet.org/programs_events/ima_leadership_academy.