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Did your parents ever tell you that if you work real hard and keep your head down, the rest will take care of itself?
As far as career advice goes, that’s B.S.
You’ve been at your job for a little while now. You love the company; you enjoy your job. You’ve worked really hard, mastered your current post, and exceeded all expectations…Yet you are still overworked and underpaid, your boss thinks Jimmy in the cubicle next-door is the best thing since whatever has replaced sliced bread, and you’re not even a blip on his radar for that new position or big task coming down the pipe.
Want to know why?
You decided to let your work speak for itself.
Parents are awesome. They raised you, fed and clothed you, maybe even let you get away with a thing or two along the way. But if you’re going to take their career advice, you might as well hand Jimmy-next-door the promotion yourself. Sure, a strong work ethic and willingness to do the dirty work that no one else wants are a solid foundation. It’s just not enough.
You don’t have to be a Darwinist to realize the workplace is competitive. Because of that, the biggest mistake you can make is to assume someone else is looking out for your career. Your boss may be a good dude, but no one cares about your career as much as you.
And Jimmy can barely tie his shoes, but you know what he can do? Schmooze.
Learn to play the game
Yes, it makes you sick, and politics are evil. But once you’re done sulking, pull your head out of the sand and start playing along.
Find the high-visibility extra duties that get you face time. That face time with the boss is crucial. Go to office parties, even if they’re lame. Dress like you already have the job you want. Put your name on everything you do. Volunteer. After you successfully navigate a volunteer task, who do you think they’ll think of next time? Getting in the game is step one.
Managing your personal brand (a.k.a Step Two) is huge. Make your talents and expertise known; don’t assume they’re self-evident. If you’re a talented writer, public speaker, designer, organizer or face painter, then your supervisor needs to know that. And the only way for him to realize that oh-so-important fact is to tell him and then prove it.
Not sure what your talent is? Then get to work figuring it out. For example, become the go-to-gal for Microsoft Office questions. When your boss asks the group, “Uh, what’s all this social media marketing stuff?” be the one with the answer. Preferably, build your authority in the areas that are ideal for that promotion you’ve been staring down.
Don’t forget to ask
Put me in, Coach. The next step is getting vocal about what you want. You’ve already established that you can write like Whitman or design a holiday party poster like Don Draper. Now it’s time to ask for what you want—increased responsibility, more/bigger clients, a new job title, a raise or even a promotion.
Is your company looking to hire a new position “requiring” five to seven years of experience that you don’t have? Pitch your boss: “Give me the opportunity to prove to you my (lack of) experience doesn’t matter.” Sell a win-win situation. Ask for a month-long trial period or an interim promotion. The worst that can happen (for the company) is they find themselves back to where they are right now. Best case scenario, they hire you for the job and their candidate search is over.
If you don’t ask or are simply afraid of being seen as “too aggressive,” then you’re letting someone else determine your career path. There’s not a whole lot that’s brazen in that strategy.
Lastly, deliver the goods
Obviously, for any of this to work, you have to deliver results. Asking for more responsibility and a chance to prove yourself and then falling on your face isn’t necessarily career suicide, but it surely isn’t the fast track to the top.
Warning: this plan only works for people who can perform.
Oh, you weren’t prepared to potentially risk your career? You’re more comfortable playing it safe and letting your work speak for itself? Well, I could feed you some corny Wayne Gretzky quote like “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” or some cliché like “With great risk comes great reward.”
But instead of that, I’ll ask you where you work so I can come be your Jimmy.