Part I covered three concrete things you can start doing this week. (Start there if you haven’t read it already)
Part II is about big picture ideas and longer term strategies that you should work on over time. Here are three more things you can do to get on the hiring manager’s list of top candidates before the job is even posted:
4) Figure Out Your Niche
Unless your team has only one senior, you’ll find that different seniors have different specialties. The thing that motivates me to come in early or stay late or juggle 1,000 tasks is that every day I’m working on projects that I’m insanely curious about. I’m continually challenged to keep improve my skills. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to get paid to do work you love.
So ask yourself – what parts of work do you love doing or what things do you daydream about getting to work on? Not sure? Ask your friends on the team and your team lead what they think you’re great at and do a project in that area.
With that in mind, ask yourself where there is room for improvement in areas you love working on – then turn it into a small project!
As you complete more and more small projects, reflect on the parts you liked and didn’t like. I always knew I loved technology, and over time I learned that I also enjoy the challenge of presenting and the challenge of projects that require me to informally lead a cross-functional team.
5) Connect the Dots
Much of being a senior is working on improving your team and the business as a whole. Whenever you run into a problem, see if you can solve it for your whole team, or for the entire business. Apply this same logic to opportunity as well.
Run into an issue or feel like a process sucks? Use it as an excuse to do something you love – create a technology solution, do a short training, etc.
- If I have this problem, are other team members or other clients affected by this problem?
- Can I use my strengths and passions to solve it for everyone at once, or figure out a repeatable solution that everyone can execute?
- Is this going to happen again in the future?
Sitting in a presentation or reading an email communiqué from senior management?
- My Manager / Director / VP said XYZ is a priority for the business. How does this relate to my team? Can I use my strengths and passions to help?
- Another group presenting? Obviously the idea is powerful enough to make it to the big stage. How can you apply that or adapt that to fit your team?
6) Be Well Rounded
Here’s a checklist of skills you’ll rely on as a Senior. Some will come naturally, some you’ll already have worked on, and some will be a stretch. Use small projects to start chipping away at this list. Try tying the things that are uncomfortable to the things that come naturally, such as presenting to a different team on a topic you know like the back of your hand.
You can also use this list as interview prep – I’m willing to bet you’ll get asked about each of these skills in your interview (either directly or indirectly). Aim to have a story prepared for each, though it’s not the end of the world if you have to fudge one or two.
- Mentoring / helped others on the team
- Project management / project leadership
- Working cross-functionally
- Innovation / identified a team-wide issue and then solved it
- Training & presenting
- Technology & internal systems
- And of course excellence in core fulfillment
Keep in mind that your examples don’t have to be completely earth shattering, and you can use one project to highlight multiple skills. Remember that you’re competing against other individual contributors, not someone who has been a senior for years.
Putting It All Together
The map is in your hands – now it’s up to you what you do with it.
What are you going to do this week to take the first step?