How to move into a more Senior Role

When I was younger I was always fairly independent, head strong and forthright. I’m glad I still am.

It set me up for where I am today and I’d say it has definitely contributed to how I’ve moved into more senior roles throughout the years. Over time you look back and see the things you’ve done, how you’ve managed yourself and the things you’ve learned to see how those things have contributed to your professional progression.

Some background…

My first senior role in the industry was my very first job at 22yrs old. I was freelance. I was the designer, front-end developer, HR, finance and boss man.

It wasn’t my first job where I’d took a little piece of seniority. In earlier jobs I had led teams. When I was 17 I led my first team running a group of 5 game reviewers from around the world and working with the largest game publishers.

Following a few years of freelance I joined an agency and quickly took on a more senior role, then came my time at Codeworks where I worked with a team to establish the DIBI Conference and ultimately took as much control as I could over that. I’m aware this could have come across negatively to the team who had helped in its original creation — sorry guys.

Then there were was more time spent freelancing, working within an agency, being the Senior Designer at a startup, creating and running Industry Conf and joining traveljunction.com as the Head of UX.

Over the years I’ve worked on learning as much as I can for as long as I can from the people I can learn from and used it to my benefit and the benefit of the project/product I was working on at the time.

I started working at 14/15 years old and since then I’ve enjoyed and relished the challenges that senior roles bring and I’ve picked up some tips on how to make the move into a more senior or leadership role if you’re thinking about doing it yourself.

Moving up the chain

Often moving up the chain moves you from being led to being a leader, hence the seniority part. It’s a big move, sometimes people who become leaders are not ready for it or end up not wanting the role.

There’s no one size fits all ‘here’s how you’re a good leader’ book. Go to your nearest book store to find that out.

Over the years I’ve found that there’s a couple of good things that constitute whether you’re ready for a senior role/leadership or a good senior/leader:

  1. Listen more than you speak. You realise that you may not have all the answers and knowledge to take something from A to B, but the people around you and on your team do. You’re willing and able to listen to their thoughts and feedback, rationalise their thoughts with the preferred outcome and make a plan verbally once ready. You speak when needed and present information when required with purpose and thought, not before.
  2. You can visualise a path to success. You have the foresight to see the navigation to a successful outcome. Yes things might get in your way and things will test you but overall you’re able to see what the end game is and be able to articulate that so everyone around you knows it too.
  3. You have answers. If someone has a question, you have an answer. Everything is clear in your head, you know if there are challenges and when/where they’re likely to pop up and these again can be articulated externally and internally within the team you’re working in. As well as that, you’re able to communicate clearly how success might be brought around quicker by doing ‘X, Y and Z’. You know what’s going on because you care so much about what you’re doing, and due to that you have answers.
  4. Integrity. You’re honest about what can be achieved — and/or you’ll find out what can be achieved. If you don’t think something is possible you don’t say it is knowing full well it isn’t. Alternatively if you’ve been controlling something and it’s not been successful you hold-your hands up to that being the case, you don’t shift blame or reasoning to someone else. You can openly say why something isn’t or shouldn’t be possible. You can rationalise your thoughts to remain honest and truthful.
  5. Clear hindsight. You can look back at something and know the things that have been causing you challenges. You can easily say which things you’ve learned from and how you could do them differently in the future to change the outcome.
  6. Future thinking. You’re always thinking about the future and what needs to be done whilst working on the current without messing up one, the other or both up. You don’t screw things up to get another thing done.
  7. Never give up. You live and breathe your product, you care about it incessantly and think about how you could make changes or make things better like when you’re going to sleep, waking up or at the gym. You’re clever enough to realise where something isn’t going to work and can quickly adjust yourself and your team to get to a better outcome.
  8. You lead from the front. You’re unshakeable or the perception is that you’re unshakeable. If something bad happens, you don’t panic. You know to react in a calculated and calm fashion. You’re the person you’d want in your trench. You want to lead and have the respect of those directly around you. You have the trust in them and them in you. You can do.
  9. Not scared to share your opinion. You carry conviction in sharing your opinion. You know how to deliver it in a manner where it will be respected. Simple blurting your thinking out doesn’t carry through to the person listening and will usually end up making you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re not the type of person to sit at the back of the room whilst everyone else shares their opinion when you know something could be done better.
  10. You actively take control. Becoming a leader and more senior is earned. Everyone around you knows that you’ve exhibited signs of being a leader if they were asked, even if your job title doesn’t say it. Alternatively if the people around you don’t want to be led by you then you’re not even close to leading. By leading you get the right stuff done and make good progress.
  11. You can be a PITA. But you’re a good PITA. Everything you do is for the good of the people around you and the good of the product or thing you’re working on. Most PITA make things difficult, are negative for no reason at all or generally just cause a nuisance and stop progress. A good PITA asserts a level of control like Zeus himself. A good PITA will control something in a way you may not agree with but will generally deliver what you’ve wanted and more. They have their own way of doing things — but are damn good at it.
  12. Are good. They’re good at what they do. Whether that be their core skill set, multiple skill sets or leadership itself. Good seniors and leaders have the experience to take you to where you need to go and know how fast to go with it. You’re good at knowing that things need to be done in a certain timeframe and can explain that to those around you.

Anyone can read all the books in the book store on leadership, more often than not a good senior/leader has a natural instinct to be good at what they do.

And remember…

Everyday you’re interviewing for your next job. Make the most of it.

Published by

Gavin

Head of Interaction Design at DigitalDWP.