If you’re just starting out in your career, the corporate ladder may look insurmountable and overwhelming. You may feel that in demand planning, business forecasting, S&OP and related fields, it Is especially difficult to make it to the executive corner office. I am here to tell you that a promotion is not out of reach and if you want it and work at it, there are opportunities at director level and above.
I am going to be honest with you though, there are challenges, there is bias, and you may be your own worst enemy. But if you are determined to move up or change the course of your career path, there are some things you can do. Drawing on my own career in which I have worked as Director of Demand Planning at various companies, here are nine tips that can help you move from the cubical to the board room. Let’s get going and climb that corporate ladder!
1. Develop Your Own Career Map
To achieve your full potential, you need to own your career path. You cannot wait or assume your boss will just reward you for your hard work. Understand what it is you really want to do professionally. Ask yourself what your professional identity is and what it needs to be to get where you want to be. Figure out your strengths, values, and preferences and determine how these qualities will fit into the identity you aspire to become. Then create a roadmap that will get you where you want to be.
2. Be Willing To Let Go
There is a common career staller for demand planners who are technically proficient and have a lot of business forecasting expertise. You see, it may be all that success and ability that is stopping you from advancing. Many organizations become dependent on you as an individual contributor and fear that they may lose those insights if they put you in a management role. Leadership inherently requires letting go of control and enabling others to do the work. You have been effective, so the need to make changes in order to break through to leadership may be just what you need. While I do not advocate being less successful as an individual contributor, early on in your career you need to try to balance your time with strategic planning, coaching others, developing people and other work – and all that necessitates stepping back.
3. Be willing to Accept Risk
You are going to make mistakes. There is a great sports axiom – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Making mistakes is one of the best learning opportunities there is, so don’t be afraid to make one. By trial and error, you’ll learn. From experience, you’ll grow. From failure, you’ll gain wisdom. From success, you’ll gain confidence. That’s the beauty of taking risks. Basically what I am saying is take the shot and don’t worry if it misses.
4. Come with Solutions
I hate the saying “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”. That’s how small-minded managers think. That said, regardless of how junior you may be or what department you are in, you can have ideas that positively affect the company. Bring solutions to the table or anything that can improve things in your area. Show people that you think strategically and look beyond your day-to-day activities. Do not be content with just doing things the way they have always been done and do not shy away from opportunities to show you add value at a higher level.
5. Play Well With Others
You never know who may end up being your boss or helping your career so try not to burn bridges early in your career. With what we do we have the unique advantage of touching so many other departments and collaborating with so many people. Use this and remember there may be a lot of value in doing things that at the moment do not benefit you. These relationships and positive behaviors may not have immediate benefits but in the long run, they may open up doors or move you up the ladder.
6. Promote Yourself
While this may not be entirely possible you can be your own greatest cheerleader. It is not always intentional but your boss and others may not know how great you are or the success you just had. Be comfortable with bragging about yourself from time to time. Not to the point that it is all about you, but a little positive press on a big accomplishment may be just the thing you need to get noticed. When others are aware of your value, they can help you get the recognition you deserve or help you get promoted.
7. Be an Influencer
The surprising thing is that you don’t need to be a director to have influence. I was an analyst running an executive S&OP process. I have seen others without a title be the one in a room that others are listening to. Your character and confidence build the trust and respect needed so people listen to your comments and value them. When you lead, others want to follow you. As you become to be known for getting things done, building alliances, and gaining buy-in for your ideas, you begin to be the kind of person people rely on. Then it only makes sense to promote you to a position that uses these qualities.
8. Continuous Learning
Truly good leaders are constantly learning. They’re the first to tell you that they don’t know everything. As a result, they are always challenging themselves and keeping on top of trends in the field. To help you, find ways to attend IBF conferences, read up on developments in the field and best techniques and methodologies, watch videos, and become active in the wider demand planning community. Consider getting IBF certified and challenge yourself to write for an industry publication [Ed: like the Journal of Business Forecasting] or speak at a conference or webinar. All these things help position you as a thought leader in the field. As a result, you’ll be prepared when higher-level positions open up because your skills and knowledge will have expanded.
9. Orchestrate Your Own Promotion
If all else fails and you find yourself in a position where no next level is in sight, it may be time to create your own. I have done this many times myself and have seen it successfully done by others. Many companies do not have a director of analytics or demand planning for you to move into. Help the organization understand the benefits of the role you want and show them that no other existing department can do it the way you can. Build a business case around what you can do for the company and include the new role, scope, responsibilities, and value. If you are genuinely hungry for a career advancement, you’ll make the promotion yourself.
Find your next role on IBF’s Jobs Page which features a range of demand planning, forecasting, supply chain and related vacancies.
An excellent way to secure your next promotion is to get IBF certified. This globally recognized demand planning certificate puts you in an elite group of forecasters and demand planners with many CPF professionals reporting that it helped land them their next promotion or pay raise. Click here for more information.