This time, I'm going to start you off with my list and ask you to continue it by putting your advice in the comments. Here's what I'd advise the rising communicator:
- If the job or the boss turn out to be awful, beat tracks: No one ever said, "I wish I'd spent more time at that awful job." It's easier and less expensive for you and your company if you leave when you figure out that it's not a good fit for you. So do it. You'll put years back on your life and have less to regret later. Trust me.
- Ask for training in presentation skills: Looking back, my own career expanded when I was pushed to do presentations to high-level decision-makers. It's a skill I've been honing and using ever since--and now that I teach those skills to others, my favorite callers say "That training just helped me get a promotion!" Ask your organization to invest in your training, and keep practicing.
- Decide whether you need special communications skills to advance: Media relations has traditionally been a requirement for communicators to advance to management ranks, so if you haven't worked with reporters, it may be time to find opportunities to do so. But it's not the only special skill out there. Think about any special skills you need, then go out and get some training.
- Decide what you don't need to learn: Will you be coding--or just supervising people who do? Must you learn graphic design, or can you just learn to work effectively with graphic designers? I will never regret having learned early in my career how to work with graphic designers and manage production, without having to do it all myself--and I get better results when I hire designers, photographers, videographers and other specialists, even today.
- Figure out how to gain management experience: That might mean managing the intern or the office staff meeting to start, but you need to try managing--even if you don't expect to be a manager. Ask for more responsibility each time you prove yourself at a management task.