Are you a mid-level individual contributor? Have you gained a significantly wide range of skills in your career? Have you worked on developing your specialization in a particular niche? Do you want to progress to the next level faster? If so here I discuss success skills for mid-level senior professionals to progress faster.
Unique Challenges of Mid-Level Professionals
For the last two decades, I have worked as an individual contributor in various roles. I have been fortunate enough to manage large teams of individual contributors, comprising entry-level, mid-level, and senior professionals. I have noticed that senior mid-level professionals are primarily in a sort of ‘wait mode,’ waiting for their calling while they have a keen desire to progress faster. However, they do not always get systematic guidance from their immediate managers to move forward.
To successfully establish yourself as a next-in-line potential candidate, you need to master a whole unique set of dynamics compared to mid-level or entry-level professionals. These dynamics are not taught in most organizations.
As an experienced professional, you are at the level where you could translate your knowledge into leadership if you play it right. This is the level where knowledge could be translated to leadership through next-generation solutions. However, being at mid-level, as it suggests, is a difficult sandwiched position. While you have to maintain your performance at the current level, you must also show performance to the next level to progress.
If you strategize your approaches well enough, you could be the next-in-line candidate for a potential opportunity to be in the supervisory, management, or leadership role.
Over the years, I found that three skills that they need to progress faster.
1. Continue To Maintain visibility
The new workplace in most organizations is full of equally talented professionals, most of whom move quickly. They are increasingly becoming competitive and rub shoulders with each other to get ahead in their careers. They don’t mind going the extra mile to make themselves noticed by upper management.
While mid-level professionals may have a lot of experience and knowledge, not all mid-level professionals know how to stay visible. One of the senior professionals working for me made sure that he sent me a list of accomplishments, new actions identified, and risks or alerts every Friday without fail. Instead of just expressing opinions in the team meeting, he would pull up a slide or two and explain his viewpoints with command. Even though no such protocol was given, it allowed him to be much more visible to me. Eventually, he was promoted to be a manager.
2. SHOW Ability to say no and challenge the norms
As a senior individual contributor, you have already developed enough observations through your experience regarding what works and what does not. This is your moment to translate those observations into actions and create the changes you have always strived for. Leverage your experience, establish your opinion, and take a stand to challenge the norm. Do not be afraid of confrontation, but carefully tread the thin line between a productive confrontation versus an unproductive conflict.
One of my direct reports was extremely upfront in pointing out weak management decisions or viewpoints. But he would do so factually and rationally without holding back his opinions. When someone resists rationally and explains the other side of the issue that might have been missed, that objection will be seen as leadership and not confrontation. So, a key skill mid-level professionals acquire to stand out is the ability to stand up.
3. Demonstrate Synthesis or integration skills
Several managers love employees with excellent analytical skills whom they can rely upon to understand complex problems. When the project work requires more attention to detail or a more serious cause analysis, experienced professionals with greater analytical skills are the go-to persons.
I had a brilliant employee with top-notch analytical skills. He was extremely good at dissecting the issues and reaching the root; he was usually the first person to tell us the solution. However, when it comes to implementing the solution, he has tons of challenges, and more often, I had to bring in someone else who had well-developed synthesis skills. For mid-level professionals who are ready to step into management or leadership roles, the most crucial skill they can display is their ability to synthesize diverse pieces or components into one whole, make sense of scattered pieces of information or drive something to culmination.
The world is not the same anymore. Contemporary times require a distinct set of approaches that are needed to succeed faster in the workplace. The newer technologies, automation, and AI are progressing to develop better decision-making and data analysis capabilities while addressing routine tasks more efficiently. This causes concerns regarding the long-term relevance of a particular category of senior contributors. The real reskilling that you can do today is to be a differentiated senior mid-level professional who is not easily forgettable when the right time comes to find the next-in-line candidate.
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Dr Raman K Attri is a multifaceted personality as a scientist, author, speaker, L&D leader, and artist. Awarded as one of the Brainz Global 500 leaders, Transformational Business Leader of the Year, and one of the most Admired Global Indians of the Year, he is featured in over 200 media features. An award-winning learning scientist, he specializes in the science of speed in personal and professional performance. A prolific author of 50 multi-genre books, he writes on leadership, learning, performance, and workplace learning. He is an authentic accelerated learning guru who walks the talk by earning two doctorates and over 100 international educational credentials. Permanently disabled since childhood, Dr Raman K Attri is a hallmark of positivity and inspiration. He has transformed his inability to walk into a unique expertise to teach others techniques to ‘walk faster’ in what they do. His remarkable achievements inspire others to strive for excellence in their personal and professional lives.