Would you like to know the single biggest mistake I made in my career?
Waited for the right opportunity to speak-up in meetings. Waited for my boss to notice my work. Waited for my organization to invest in developing me.
Can you relate to the wait? We all do it, but do you need to?
Here are 3 things that may keep you stuck waiting:
So, what's the opposite of waiting?
It’s the brave career.
The reality is, opportunities go to those who don’t have “wait” as a default setting; professionals who are brave, who use waiting strategically and make the right moves, for the right reasons at the right time in the right ways.
These professionals enjoy their dream careers because they know three vital things:
I have my dream career today, I make a meaningful and positive difference in other people’s lives every single day, but what if I hadn’t waited? What if I had invested in myself sooner? How many more people could I have helped then?
Honestly, sometimes that keeps me up at night.
Learn from my biggest career mistake, don’t wait; the time is now to be brave with your career and make the investments you need to bring all your amazing gifts into the world.
That’s the dream, right?
You deserve your dream career.
I’m not going to lie; I LOVE not having to commute to an office.
Since the beginning of the pandemic my productivity has gone up a lot, and that isn’t just busy-ness, that is solid value-add; I can support even more client’s and their career aspirations when I’m not on the road (and searching for parking) 2+ hours a day.
This was a big AH-HA for many professionals during this unprecedented circumstance.
However, there is an ugly back-spin to this virtual world, and it comes at the expense of your well-being.
You are given less opportunity to be playful at work.
No joking around in the coffee room, no being pleasantly surprised when your boss decides to participate in “ugly sweater day” (and then really commits to wearing the most tragic of sweaters for the whole day, even in client meetings).
Even when your organization offers these opportunities for play while working remotely, you may not be interacting with your boss that day via video conference, and hearing about their ugly sweater on a Teams chat is not the same as seeing your boss walking around the office in outrageously clashing colors.
You just don’t have the same access to play at work that you did while in the office AND, play is really important for your career:
Feeling isolated at work? When was the last time you played?
You can create play for yourself by taking breaks and looking for light-heartedness in other ways; I've never watched more quick video clips of stand-up comedy throughout the day then I have during the pandemic as a way to get a genuine laugh during my work day.
But what is really needed to blast feeling isolated or depleted is shared fun with your team-mates.
Here are some options to consider bringing to your virtual workplace:
Having more fun at work is an important (though often over-looked) way to more deeply connect to what you do and who you do it with …and now that we have seen more of each other’s pets, families, interior décor and lounge-wear then we ever thought we would, maybe it’s OK to spend more time being a little silly on-line together too.
I took a dream job at a big global company. Up to that point I had worked in increasingly larger organizations, but their smaller size (less than 1,000 employees) meant they all shared two things: They had a lot of heart, and they were under-resourced. I was not getting the opportunities I was looking for to develop my career. I had great experiences at all of them, but I wasn’t growing.
I LOVED my time at the big global company, they were a fantastic organization, but there was one flaw in the dream: I had an invisible boss.
Not only was my boss located in another country (same time zone, thankfully), but they were an incredibly busy person, completely consumed by meetings and travel, almost never in the office and juggling many competing demands. I learned two things really quickly:
It was a big disappointment to me, because I’d purposefully targeted what I thought was a resource-rich environment for development. Looking back on it, having to find ways to thrive in that circumstance was an opportunity for career development in itself. I learned a lot of things, but here are the 2 key take-aways that helped me to thrive with an “invisible” manager:
I credit my time in that organization with helping me build skills and awareness that still support me in what I do today (even though what I do now is very different). Which points to the importance of finding, and using, ongoing coaching (formal and informal) as a way to keep your stress levels down, and your professional effectiveness at peak performance.
Of course, back then, career coaching wasn’t a thing. Looking back, I would have invested in a coaching program (if one had been available) as another way to thrive in an unwelcome circumstance because the big investment I was making in moving to that multi-national was in myself, and I knew I was a great investment.
And so are you.
What’s the one thing in your job you could lose that would make you a very happy professional? And how would it feel to never have to do that task again? Go on, dream a little bit.
Hold on to that vision, because there are clear ways to step out of work you are bored with today. But, before we go there, let’s look at some the excellent reasons you should move away from tasks you’ve “out-grown” at work:
Full disclosure, there will always be routine work in every job that isn’t exciting to do; the goal is not to get to 100% juicy work (80/20 is a more realistic split). The goal is to ensure you highlight your skills and readiness to support increased value-add work so both you and your organization can benefit.
So, have you identified one or two things you’d be happy to lose from your job description? Here’s how to do just that:
All of these options can help you move boring things off your plate at work, but the most important part to getting this done is making sure you have a strategic upside to offer. Demonstrating to your manager what value-add you can bring to other critical work (or how you can take on more of the challenging work you have today) is key. Here again, you’ll want to highlight the opportunities for the business in considering this change, keeping it de-personalized and ego-less.
It’s important to shine a light on the work you do from time to time and evaluate if it is the best use of your evolving talents and skills. If you think your boss is doing this, keep in mind how busy they are…do they really get the “thinking” time needed to assess if everyone is optimized in their roles? Not likely. You need to advocate for yourself, or risk letting this happen by chance. Of course, if you have really bright co-workers with lots of potential who advocate for themselves than even chance won’t help you.
Think about it; what is the worst that could happen in advocating for what you know you are ready to do?
Innovation is the key to staying relevant. That is true in technology, services and products and it is also true in your career.
However, innovation also requires you to do old things in new ways or try new things you’ve never done before. This can be hard to do.
From a career perspective it means being flexible and open to new ideas and ways of working. We were all tested on this with the pandemic when (overnight) we switched to working virtually, or saw workspaces change with new protocols and an altered look (plexiglass and masks being the “new black” in 2020).
It required something new of each of us to find our way in this altered reality.
Doing things differently doesn’t always feel very comfortable, even when you’re doing it for all the right reasons. It can be hard to feel good about making changes that are uncomfortable, draining you of energy and good will. But (the pandemic aside) it is not good to get overly comfortable in your work and career.
Because you get bored. Your skills go stale. You don’t grow. You may even become less relevant (or irrelevant) to your employer. Did you know you can still be run off your feet with work and be bored at the same time?
Yup. And when that happens, it usually shows in your work. It’s hard to fake caring about something you just don’t care about anymore (procrastination, lack of attention to detail, rushing to get it over with…).
So, consider doing something new for your work and career. Start small, learn a new feature in the software you use every day (like knowing how to reverse ALL CAPS without retyping – highlight the text and hit SHIFT + F3 - you’re welcome).
Learning new things, innovating, being creative asks you to do something very important. It asks you to believe in yourself, to take a small risk, to stretch your thinking and for that small price it gives a lot back.
It gives you something to feel really good about (yeah, I’m the boss of my typing, even when I accidently hit the caps lock key four sentences ago… again). It shows you what you are more than capable of doing. It helps remind you that you are a dynamic human being who isn’t standing still but is moving toward a future that you are getting ready to meet head on.
Doing something new isn’t about big, monumental things like getting an MBA, it’s about staying flexible in your thinking, so you keep being curious and don’t put up with the little things that hold you back (especially the ones in your control).
What new thing can you do today?
I bet doing it will make you feel good and is an important step in investing in your relevancy at work.