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Managing Up: A Strategy to Reach Your Career Goals

Updated: Jun 3

In one of our recent career navigation seminars, Dr. Ashley Adams shared how to use what you know to chart a path for career success, which she coins, Managing Up. One part of the strategy is identifying the type of leader you are and the leadership language your manager speaks and understands. This awareness helps to form a plan for the best way to lead with purpose-driven and thoughtful conversations while developing meaningful relationships. The heart of the strategy in Managing Up, is getting clear on what your organizational leadership needs from you to meet their expectations while establishing a pathway for two-way communication and ongoing dialogue.

One of the clear distinctions between sucking up to your boss and Managing Up is establishing parameters for professional respect based on taking invisible assumptions, naming them, and using shared understandings to build from in the future. Executing on what has been outlined and setting up ongoing checkpoints are all part of a) managing the expectation, and b)holding yourself and your leadership team accountable to the ways you add value to the team and the organization. Ultimately, you are establishing trust, reliability, and ambition; and although you will have jointly created a roadmap [formally or informally], you know that your actions were the lever for change.

Another excellent point in the session was the need to elevate ones’ awareness of time. A key component of this process is establishing a baseline of months to create a plan followed by doing the work, generating data, evaluating that data, and then making plans for the next sequence of months. This puts you in the seat to determine what is working and not working. And, it takes a proactive instead of a reactive approach to self-management.

As a graduate student, I have found myself on a seesaw, straddling the fence of navigating leveling up as an established career professional and learning all that I can from the wealth of professors and program staff at my current university. I see promise in using the strategy of Managing Up in both settings. And, I also see the benefit in thoughtfully weighing the needs of each unique context and the complex identities we bring to each space. On one hand, I am learning how to navigate the maze of higher ed with its own rules, cultural norms, and opportunities. But, I am also navigating how to best use my academic training and apply it to real-world contexts. In a perfect world, I might have everything that I want in a beautiful package, but in reality, I may have some bumps in the road. My professor might be highly theoretical with no clear sight for practical application of theory; or she might understand and see the world through a specific world view, which may be emphatically different than my own. With this in mind, I have come to realize that I may not get everything I need from one mentor, one professor, one advisor, or even one direct manager. Managing Up reminded me to take the stance of cultivating two-way relationships on several levels and to respect and value each unique perspective. We were so grateful to have had her with us at Navcap; to learn more about her amazing work, check her out at . If you are a Black or LatinX graduate student and you'd like to learn more about what we do, visit us at ,

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