You know those famous last words, right?
Be careful of what you ask for because you may end up getting it?
I started out strong in my career with lots of high hopes about what I could achieve. I enrolled in every training course that was offered, thinking that if I filled my head with concepts about how to get things done, I would get my promotion.
My first boss, Brian, a recently promoted eager-to-please-everyone kind of manager, wanted to do great things in our department. I was part of his team and wanted to show him what I could do so I asked what I needed to get to my next promotion.
“Show me what you can achieve!” he told me. Pumped up by the promise of a possible future advancement, I worked my ass off for 2 years running. My performance reviews were the best I had ever have. Even colleagues would come up, out of the blue, to congratulate me. I felt pumped, happy because I knew what was coming next.
It was not what I had expected.
My boss got promoted, due to his team’s outstanding results, in good part, thanks in part to my efforts.
Before he left, I asked him for the promotion he had promised.
“Sorry, said Brian, I can’t do anything right now. But I will speak to the new boss who is replacing me so he will reward you as you should be”
I was gutted. The hardest part was facing people at work. I felt they were sorry for me but no one ever said anything to my face and that only made things worse. For the next 3 months, all I could talk about was:
– How I could have got that promotion, but my boss… (fill in the blanks!)
– How I should have got a better position but my boss… (fill in the blanks!)
– It’s so unfair because my boss… (fill in the blanks!)
Do you see the warning signs?
I made Brian my manager the prime decision-maker in achieving my goals in life. I essentially gave him the keys to decide what I would achieve or not, I gave him the opportunities to define who I be and when I would advance. He stalled my career but he did not take away my resolve to make it happen.
If you have a great boss great things will happen at work. When your boss is crap, great things can still happen but the way forward needs to be adjusted.
Looking back, I thank Brian, because of him I made a decision that year to move into a another department. I set my sights on getting promoted into a different department because I did not not want to have to prove myself again with the new boss.
So let’s look at where you are currently in your job. Do you use the killer words sometimes? Often? Can’t get those darn words out of your brain?
I want to, but…
I should have, but…
I could have, but…
It might have been, but…
How do you feel every time you say something like that to yourself when you speak about your job? Now, imagine the impact these words would create in your mind if you continuously used them to describe what you could have done in your career?
I changed the way I spoke about myself. It took me a year to adjust my course and this is how I did it.
These 3 things changed my approach got me closer to my promotion.
Never become too comfortable in your job. When we do it so well we become complacent and stop learning. What took us days to achieve we can now do in hours so we have more time on our hands. How do we spend that time is significant for our growth. For example, I asked myself what else could I learn about my current job that would prove to be useful in my new one? What know-how could I leverage? Who else was skilled who could help me in exchange for my help in their jobs?
I asked people, what is the number one thing that keeps them motivated in their jobs? Almost everyone answered, when they are learning new things. So what kind of new things are happening in your industry that you would like to know more about? What new program can you learn? What articles can you read to help you understand more about your job? What courses are available for you? For example, I approached my HR department and asked them for time to study to prove that I was serious.
Before I got promoted, I asked myself, what kind of skills do I need for that next promotion? Up-skilling yourself is the most important factor in moving laterally if you cannot move upwards because you happen to have a “horrible boss”. Go out and interview co-workers to find out more about their jobs and the kind of skills you require to move to another department. Believe me, Ask them and You Will Receive!
I asked the director of the department I wanted to move into for an interview and I got 5 minutes of her time. I put everything I had in my heart in that conversation.
The best thing is, she listened, and asked me a few questions. The fact that I was working AND studying cinched it.
You cringe… I could never do that??! Really? You would be surprised at how passionate people get when they love their work! People love sharing their skills and knowledge, but you will never know that until you step out of your complacency and ASK! That director only gave me 5 minutes of her time but she also suggested that I speak to her assistant for anything else I needed. That got me a foot in the door.
As an example, this is a possible script when you ask for that interview: “Hi! My name is Shirley, I work in (…) and I love what I’m doing (…)! I am curious to find out more about your department and what you all do, because everyone here only says great things about your team (…). I know you are busy but can I buy you lunch/tea/snack/ so you could spend a few moments to answer a few questions? I’d love to know more!
What is it going to take to shift your mindset from “poor me, my horrible boss does not want to promote me” to “what do I want to achieve in the next 3 months in my job?” When we view ourselves as victims, and use defeatist words like, I could have, I should have, If only … we are imprinting in our minds that we have no choice BUT to remain where we are. It’s someone else’s fault that we are miserable at work!
This is what I did. I replaced the negative words in my mind, with:
– What else is possible, if I do (…)
– What would it take for me to achieve (…) in the next 3 months?
– How can I learn/reach/achieve (…)?
When we use questions that begin with “Why”, our brain tends to pull us back into the past and the merry-go- round-of all our excuses lights up with all its bells and whistles! Questions that begin with “What” and “How” are more empowering as they force our brains to look forward for new options, and options give us choice. When we choose, we move forward.
I wrote my questions down – pen and paper helps me think better – and came up with some possible options. Then I took one of those possible options and ACTED! Taking swift action creates momentum and once momentum is going, it makes it harder to back down.
For example, pick up that phone and make an appointment to speak to someone TODAY about something you really want to do/learn/know at work. Or even better, get up from your seat, walk down those stairs to the person’s work space and ask them if you could speak to them for a moment and ask for an appointment.
Miracles happen within our brain when we start walking!
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Yes I really do, I reply to every email.