You work hard and smartly, deliver great results and get good feedback. You’re a high performer and well thought of, and yet… you are not getting that promotion, that offer of a big new project, and so on. Does this sound familiar?
Much of the coaching work I do involves helping people achieve their goals for promotion and general advancement. Increasingly this involves work on ‘branding’, self-promotion and getting noticed. Many people are entirely happy with this and progress accordingly. Others however, are distinctly uncomfortable with the notion of self-promotion. Many will have resisted doing so for years and may have come to me in the first place because they are tired of being passed over in the promotion ‘game’. They ask themselves, and me as their coach, what is going wrong? If you have ever been disgruntled at watching a self-promoting colleague with seemingly fewer skills and inferior performance get promoted over you, this might apply to you too.
I have heard many similar stories over the past decade and they all seem to have the same belief in common: If I work hard and intelligently, do a good job and generally keep my head down, my work will be recognised and I will be rewarded. It seems to go hand in hand with the notion of being modest, of not ‘showing off’, the ‘good things come to he who waits’ school of thought. It is a belief with which many of us in this culture are brought up. It is somehow not “nice”, not ‘us’ to ask. Many of us are deeply uncomfortable with having to push ourselves forward if we want to get on. This is not what we’re taught at school or at home, where being ‘pushy’ or self promoting is often distinctly frowned upon. The problem is that if we keep our heads down we are frequently overlooked…
When I look further into this with clients I usually find that the real problem isn’t in promoting ourselves, or even in being sufficiently confident to do so. The problem concerns the belief or expectation that to be seen and recognised you must behave in a certain way. In other words that self promotion involves behaviour which is loud, brash, arrogant, superficial, highly extroverted, self-centred, and so on. In other words, everything you’re not, don’t wish to be, or are not able to be. The essential belief in the ‘rightness’ of this is what leads to the need to become ‘someone else’ at work. I don’t believe that this kind of pretence is desirable, healthy or sustainable for the you as an individual and I certainly don’t believe that it is what organisations need in order to thrive in the modern, post-credit crunch world.
In coaching sessions with me I may challenge this expectation and recalibrate it to form a new question – “how can you effectively communicate your abilities and your desire for progression in a style that is authentic to you?” By doing this, we have addressed both aspects of the question, what will I do? and how will I do it?. With this re-framed question, we are then well on our way to develop an effective strategy and a plan of action with which to achieve those career goals.
Don’t wait to be discovered…
Are you able to express your personality, beliefs and values in your work? Are your beliefs and values compromised by what you are expected to do in pursuit of earning a living? Does your current role help you to achieve your ambitions and aspirations? Are you actually clear as to what your personal style, values, aspirations and beliefs are?
For most of us, the ability to “be me”, i.e. to be authentic and true to ourselves, is an important part of achieving fulfilment and satisfaction in life. For many of us however, the constraints of needing to earn a living, or childhood teaching that we shouldn’t expect work to be fun or enjoyable, and other self-imposed limitations such as age or qualifications, mean that we fail to achieve that fulfilment, and moreover convince ourselves that it is unattainable for us, right now.
The problem with this thinking is “if not now, when?” We can always find justification for putting these things off to another day. However, there comes a time when we run out of having “another day”.
Each day presents the chance to take a fresh perspective on the future – if we choose to seize the opportunity. If you feel stuck doing the “right thing” in your career but are not achieving satisfaction or fulfilment, now is the best time to start addressing it.
Ian had a successful career in software as a consultant. However he actively disliked his job and felt stressed and unfulfilled in his daily work. Moreover he felt unable to “be himself” and was growing increasingly unhappy and frustrated with the role. As time went by his confidence decreased to the extent that he felt stuck in his role and harboured very strong doubts about his ability to be successful elsewhere. He felt further ‘stuck’ by having a young family to support.
Ian, like many other clients, felt locked in the mindset that whilst not happy in his role, pursuing other directions – in his case a strong desire to start up a new business with colleagues – was “living in cloud cuckoo land”. He feared that this was no more than a fantasy, an unrealistic dream. It is interesting how many of us have our desires so effectively quashed by a dose of the “reality stick”. As a consequence, he stayed put in his job for four years, doing the ‘right thing’ by his family and employer, but ultimately at a significant cost to himself. Many of us at some time find ourselves in Ian’s position. How many of us really want to reach retirement thinking “if only…” or “could I have…?”. This represents a form of “either/or” thinking – feeling caught between two options: either to stay stuck or to be wildly irresponsible. I think that it represents very limited thinking. When we allow ourselves to think in terms of possibilities and opportunities, new alternatives emerge. When we think about preparing and planning for a career change we are better able to satisfy ourselves (and our loved ones) that the transition to a fulfilling career will be managed with as little (or as much) risk as desired.
We get stuck in careers and jobs in which we are unfulfilled or dissatisfied for various reasons including:
Career coaching is an effective way of addressing these issues. Every week I help people from all walks of life take stock of their careers, assess their own strengths and desires, define a new career direction, and help them in the practical steps of achieving that transition. Ian put a toe in the water initially by having a ‘Career Audit’ session with me. This enabled him to clearly understand his situation and why he felt as he did, and to define his career coaching goals. In the following coaching sessions, Ian grew in confidence, developed a clear focus and sense of direction, and implemented a career transition plan which has helped him to move into his start-up career in a low risk way. When Ian now looks back he says “I can’t believe I stayed in that role for so long. I suppose I didn’t believe I would find anything better and didn’t want to risk ending up somewhere even worse. Now I am much more confident and in control of my career.”
A Career Audit might be just the start you need to take that first step. Get in touch for more details.