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Career Transitions: Succeed at Every Level

written by: Olivia Emisar•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/20/2011

Hollywood movies like to paint careers taking off to the top in less than two hours. Most fail to include the amount of hours, training and sacrifice the main characters have to put in to get ahead. In real life, it takes work and preparation to move into higher positions at the work place.

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    Keep Your Eye on the Ball

    Being the office receptionist is probably the lowest paid position in the company but a front office presence that sets the tone and image the company wants to impart. The receptionist is the eyes and ears of the company who has more access to clients and coworkers than most people in the company do. His job is at the intersection where everyone congregates which gives him the opportunity to make observations and formulate strategies for growth.

    In order to transition to other positions from this vantage point successfully, he has to determine which position he wants to be vested in obtaining and formulate a plan of action to move up the ladder.

    The same can be said for mid-level management being able to keep their eyes on the next coveted position but from a different vantage point. Subliminal and overt preparations are taking place at work while people are doing the job they are assigned to do.

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    The Plan

    The Plan Preparing ahead of time requires knowledge, insight, preparation and determination. Most companies prefer to promote from within, so that part of the battle is mostly won unless no one in the company fits the requirements of the position or no one wants to move up the ladder.


    • Observe the schedule and work load of that particular position.
    • Ask questions about process and procedures of the position.
    • Do independent research online about the position to gather insight from other companies.
    • Ask to be mentored by the person leaving the position and shadow them for two weeks.


    • Rely on the company's established procedures but bring a fresh pair of eyes to the position.
    • Research and incorporate what works successfully in other companies with the same position.
    • Rely on your previous work knowledge and insight of your coworkers and company clients.
    • Bring what made you successful at your previous position into the new one: dedication? sense of humor?
    • Prove them right. You are being promoted because you have skills and people think you have more to offer.
    • Be cognizant of the company's culture. If they have strict educational standards, be proactive in meeting standards.


    • Higher-ups want to see effort and interest in new position. Be enthusiastic.
    • Determine to make the position better by improving flaws.
    • Show competence and flexibility in learning.

    Always maintain clear and open communication with higher-ups. Supervisors and department managers are not mind readers and need to understand your willingness and commitment to the position. Transitioning the wrong person to a new position will reflect poorly on them and their managerial skills.

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    Internal Dialog

    • Communicate clearly - Be clear about your desire for the position to others after you have fact-checked internally. If you are clear that this position is a good fit for your skills, level of education and personality, then communicate those strengths to the people in charge.
    • Work through your insecurities outside of work - Assess perceived weaknesses and work to minimize them privately. Apprehension and insecurities flare up and are greatly magnified when we are out of our comfort zone. Don't let them see you sweat because lack of self-confidence can raise red flags without legitimate cause.
    • Departmentalize - Change can invite old anxieties that belong in our personal life into our work life. Making a successful transition at work requires focusing on the job at hand. Keep personal and business life separate until the new position becomes second nature.

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    Out of the Box

    Making a successful transition at work may require getting outside training to polish innate skills, refreshing old skills and learning Continuing Education new ones. This process does not have to take a long time, but it can be a series of steps that will beef up your qualifications and make you more valuable to the powers-that-be.

    • Take independent courses in your field at night or weekends.
    • Finish getting a degree.
    • Get licensed or certified at something pertinent to the job. From CPR to CPA, if it is valued, do it.
    • Volunteer on your spare time in fields of interest to the company ie., charity work, mentoring program.

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    A family member worked for an aerospace company for several years as an independent contractor. What this means is that she got the pay and none of the benefits received by full-time, permanent employees. This setting also included the yearly uncertainty of not having a job once the contract was up.

    What her boss liked:

    • Her work ethic.
    • No-nonsense attitude.
    • Willingness and ability to go beyond the job description.
    • Her ability to train others in a various positions.
    • Her self-assurance.

    Her boss also stated that as long as there was funding available, he would continue to hire her as a contractor, however, there were no guarantees. He also imparted that if she had a degree, she would be a contender for a permanent position with the company.

    What she did:

    • Brought the skills she had honed over the years to this company.
    • Took courses at night to get her Bachelor's Degree.
    • Continued to give 100% at her current job.
    • Accepted travel requirements she did not like.
    • Kept learning on the job.

    What happened:

    • She got the permanent position she wanted.
    • She has been mentored to transition to her boss's position when he retires.
    • She has beefed up her experience with a tangible degree that can be transferred anywhere.

    Obviously this is not the Hollywood movie prototype and in reality there were preparations and sacrifice involved. She kept her eye on the ball, went outside of her comfort zone and became more valuable to a company that not only transitioned her to a permanent position but groomed her for the next successful transition at work.

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    Acys Inc: Professional Crossroads

    Photos: Free Digital Photos; nuttakit ; renjith krishnan