At every stage of our career we face a new set of challenges and we must upgrade our skills to successfully overcome these challenges. Leadership skills are no exception to this rule. The challenges we face in leadership change in form and magnitude as we progress through our careers. We all start as freshers and hope to, gradually, move on to take senior positions in our domain or organisation. But to successfully make this transition we must keep improving continuously. Especially for softer aspects like Leadership where even a small amount of change requires a sustained effort of months and years, it is important that you pay attention right from the start of your career.
In this blog we have discussed various aspects you can focus on, to build leadership skills early in your career.
1. Select Your Domain
Right at the start of your career you should be asking yourself constantly if you are interested in what you are doing right now; and if the answer is no, make an active effort to slowly drift in the direction where you feel your interest lies. This is extremely important because in the long run you will not be able to perform as well as your peers, as you would constantly feel burdened and overwhelmed by your duties and responsibilities and if you are not good at your job, you will never be seen as a good leader. So the first step is identifying your interests and pursuing them slowly but aggressively.
2. Never Stop Learning
You cannot separate leadership and learning. Good leaders have to be an expert of their domain. This means that you have to keep up with all the recent trends in your industry and try to incorporate them in your own work. For someone who is just starting off their career it would be advisable to start planning the next step, the courses you may take up after two to three years of working to enhance your knowledge. Once you are clear about what you want to do this decision becomes easy to make.
When making this decision you should also target the right school because same courses are taught in a different manner at different schools. So you can start reading about which courses are most relevant to your own quest.
3. Discipline and Confidence
It is extremely important, although for everyone but more so for freshers, to follow routines and stay disciplined because you have a lot of things to learn and incorporate. Casual attitude will hamper your learning and won’t take you very far in your professional life. Even if you are an expert in doing things, it is useless because without discipline your team will never see you as a dependable member.
Discipline in work life is not only about maintaining your own routines but also respecting deadlines given to you and ensuring that you adhere to them. This will not only make you a vital member of the team but at same time will teach you how to work more efficiently by prioritising tasks and will force you to find means and ways of doing the same task in shorter duration. As you get better at your job, you will automatically become more confident and the same will reflect in your speech and your actions and slowly people will start seeing you as a viable candidate for leadership roles.
4. Work on Your Attitude
When you enter a professional environment you should pay extra attention to your behaviour because the way you behave will govern how others treat you and this will severely affect your own output since you will most likely not be working alone and will require constant help or inputs from other members of your team and/ or organisation. So be polite with people and extend help whenever you can. Talk to people around you and understand what kind of challenges they face in their everyday life, it will help you prepare yourself for these challenges as when you encounter them.
Apart from maintaining a friendly outlook you should also show your passionate side. Actively discuss your interests with your team mates, superiors and others around you and show them that you are eager to learn more. This will create a positive atmosphere around you which will help your growth. Most people avoid such active conversations because they don’t feel comfortable but every expert will tell you that the best way to encourage leadership skills is to work out of your comfort zone and try new things.
5. Focus on Soft Skills
In your early career soft skills are just as important, if not more, as your domain knowledge. Even if you learn fast, you would still have a long way to go, as far as the domain specific skills are concerned. But with good soft skills you will find it easier to navigate though the hurdles early career may send your way. Working on your communication skills is vital to avoid communication gap or miscommunication because you have to be very careful with the language you use and also a lot of things are communicated without words.
As a fresher, it is advisable that you pay close attention to how your seniors talk and behave. You don’t have to model your own personality around theirs but it can definitely teach a few things about acceptable and good behaviour traits. Also if you pick on the subtle hints they drop, you may be able to do your job more effectively and in a manner which is in line with the expectations of your seniors. Last but not the least, right from the word go you will have to start sending formal e-mails and may be required to make presentations and present them in front of others. How you perform at these tasks plays a major role, for other people in your organisation, in forming a perception of you.
6. Know Your Limits
Since you are still only starting off, you should know your limits, whether in terms of skills required or the amount of time you can dedicate, before making a commitment to your team mates and seniors. It is far better to do a few things well rather than taking on too many things and not performing well at most of them. Understanding the gap between skills and will will help you make realistic commitments. Make sure that you do not overcommit. Don’t take on something new just because it seems exciting. You need to be aware of every phase of your assigned task before you make a commitment, especially in term of time required to finish the task. To summarise, don’t allow your emotions to dominate your rational thinking.
7. Making the Right Connections
When it comes to career growth, you don’t have to limit yourself to your own firm. Look outside and connect with leaders from your industry of choice who are currently in roles which you would want to take up in the recent future. This also gives you an opportunity to expose yourself to new ideas and working styles which you can try to suggest or to some extent implement in your own firm. Such initiatives are clear signs of a leader in the making.
You can think of finding yourself a mentor who can not only make suggestions about what kind of activities you should be doing but can also introduce you to a group of like minded individuals where you can have active discussions about the choices you have in the future and how to pursue any of those choice which you may have an inclination towards.
Having good connections will not only expose you to the choices you have in the future but will also open up some interesting opportunities in the future as someone from your network may know of, or be hiring for, a role that your want to do. Social media has become a very convenient as well as effective way to improve your professional network. So sign up on the platform of your choice, build a good profile, and start connecting with the right people. PloPdo is one such platform where we are forming a close group of like minded individuals who can help each other get ahead in their professional lives.
8. Never Hesitate to Ask Questions
Never hesitate to ask any questions you may have. You should be a little sensitive towards the situation and the timing of it, but it always better to ask than to convince yourself that you are better off without it. When you don’t know the answers, most of the time you make assumptions or even worse decide to not participate in the discussion or course of work that follows. No good can ever come out of isolating yourself from any work related discussion or planning. And every time you ask a question make a note of things which are new to you so that you don’t end up asking the same questions again and again. Also make note of things which you feel can be useful in the future. Relying too much on your memory is not advisable.
Apart from asking questions you should try to get feedback from as many people as possible. Whether it is an assignment you just finished or a broader aspect like your general conduct or work ethic, always ask people, of backgrounds as diverse as possible, how they would rate you or your work?
9. Share Your Opinion
By asking questions you can learn what you don’t already know and by asking for feedback you can improve things which you may be doing wrong. But the real problem is that there are so many things you don’t know and so many things you need to improve that questions and feedback are not the most efficient way to learn or make amends.
Which brings us to the most important aspect of improving yourself, sharing! Share your doubts and more importantly your opinion about most things with your colleagues and your seniors but be careful to not come off too strong about them. This will get you a lot of feedback and you will get to hear about things which you would never otherwise have a discussion about. So, and we reiterate that you have to be delicate about it, never hesitate to put forth your opinion about anything and everything that is around you.
Learn from the things people say to counter your opinion and pay close attention to ensure no one is getting offended by the views you are expressing!