Love Your Job But Feel Pressure To Advance?


There’s a lot of reasons why employees want promotions and to advance their career. Some want the prestige of the title that goes with a role, the increase in salary, some even crave the extra workload and responsibility involved while many cite the opportunity to influence and direct staff; “I really want to make a difference.”

We’ve come to a point in many organizations where if you don’t advance yourself within a few years, you’re cut loose; you’re not performing up to expectations. It’s true! There are organizations that promote from within and expect front-line staff to move up in seniority and stature, creating opportunities for new staff in entry level roles. The thinking is that employees are most effective when they started on the bottom and as they rise in the organization, they have the memories and experience of having been on the bottom, so they carry that knowledge first-hand as they advance.

So you might be feeling that in order to fit in, you’ve got to throw your name in the next job competition for a promotion – even when you’re perfectly happy in your current role. There’s advice out there to this effect too; “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

Hold on. Go back to that very first line in this blog. Did you even notice how I used the words, “promotions” and “advance”? I bet you just read along taking both these words to mean the same thing. In other words, to advance your career you need a promotion. That’s a widely held assumption and belief that’s just not true. Here’s my personally held belief: If you want to make the biggest impact in an organization; make a real and lasting imprint on how your customers/clients/ etc. experience interacting with your company, work on the front line.

Now many people will argue that if you stay on the front line in an entry-level role, you’re not ambitious and you’re going to stagnate. I like to tell those people that while they are entitled to their opinion, I don’t share it. I myself have been an Employment Counsellor now for 12 years in the organization, 4 more before that as a Caseworker and those positions are at the same level on our organizational flow chart. So that’s 16 years employment at the same level in the same organization.

Now while I’ll happily admit I’ve not got a promotion in our organization, I’ll also tell you I’ve never sought one. Have I advanced myself though? Absolutely! I’ve evolved and developed my skills; worked on various committees and contributed fresh ideas and been open to change that’s happened and continues to happen where I work.

My reputation for competence, dependability, program development, creativity and service excellence has enriched my work life and I’m a much more effective Employment Counsellor now than I was not just 12 years ago when I started, but I like to think better than any of the years before. I’m advancing my knowledge, working to improve my service delivery, overhaul workshops and create new ones, stretch myself by learning best practices and sharing my knowledge.

Believe me, when I feel I’m just putting in time and stagnating, I’ll be aggressively seeking to move on – within or beyond the organization. I’m much more concerned about floating along and not developing personally than my employer could ever be. I never want to be, ‘that guy’; the one that everyone knows should be put out to pasture, riding off into retirement or let go because I’m flatlining. You think I’m not advancing? Just try and keep pace with me. Oh and that’s not arrogance by the way – that’s personal confidence and drive; two qualities you want in your employees no matter where they are in the hierarchy.

So now to you. When you’ve got your own performance review coming up, you may feel some expectation to indicate your plan for career advancement – in other words a promotion. I can’t tell you what you should say or how you should feel about that. I’d hate to contribute to your release from a position if the company’s policy is you only work in a role so long and up you go or out you go!

What I will say to you is this though; you can be incredibly effective and impactful on the front-line where you interact first-hand with those you’re in business to serve and interact with. You are the face of the organization, the ambassador for how they perceive the company; you hold that organizations reputation in your hands as much as your own. If you excel in your role, show up every day (well most days – we’re human after all) energized and work with drive and passion, why would you risk giving up what so many are longing for in their own careers?

Moving up doesn’t bring any guarantee of increased happiness and fulfillment. In fact, many a happy and productive employee has moved up and found the new job isn’t all they hoped it would be. They were happier and better suited to work on the front line, but in some companies, there’s no going back. That is the ultimate sign of failure in some places. What a shame.

If you love your role on the front line, show up happy, work with passion and deliver service excellence, my goodness feel validated in your present job!

 

 

23 And Expecting It All


“You can be anything you put your mind to.”

Have you ever had someone tell you that, and did you believe them? If you were fortunate, you did have people put that belief in your ear, and they were likely people in positions of authority or respect whom you trusted. Maybe it was mom and dad, a relative or a teacher. I say fortunate in the sense that they believed enough in your potential that they opened up an entire world of possibilities.

This notion of being anything you want to be, of having everything you want to have, is nothing new. People have been encouraging their children to aspire to realize their dreams for thousands of years. However, there’s a specific generation, the one we termed the, “Me Generation” that got this message in ways no generation before them did. Not only was it a parent or a relative encouraging their child, it was a broader society urging an entire population on.

That message of being anything you wanted to be was supported by having the resources like no previous time in history either. Post secondary schools offered courses responding to this demand, and while the costs for some were prohibitive, student loans, bursaries, grants, and for many the financial support of affluent families opened up the reality of higher education. In our parents generation, you may have been limited to a few career options; many choosing to follow in their parents careers. Then in a very short period of time, the floodgates opened and all kinds of jobs came into being at the same time which had previously never existed.

These days, the options for courses at Community Colleges and Universities are extensive. There are additional options too; self-employment, private colleges, training institutes, online learning, etc. While our high schools here have dropped from 5 to 4 years over time, this has had the affect of having young people make career decisions at an even younger age than before; ironically in an age when all these new careers and employment possibilities haven’t even entered their awareness.

So many 13 and 14 year olds are feeling the pressure to make major decisions they are actually incapable of making with sound reasoning.; they just haven’t experienced enough of life yet. Once in high school, they have to decide on University or College level classes; the choice of which determines the education path they will experience. And all the while, the message they keep hearing is, “you can be anything and do anything you put your mind to.”

So what’s the problem with telling an entire generation they can have it all? Something was left out. We, as the generation before them neglected to mention they wouldn’t have it all immediately. So now we’ve got 23 year old adults who bought into that belief of having it all and they want it all now. They want to own homes or a condo; they want unrelenting love, trips abroad, careers and what they consider to be decent wages. This generation is pretty sure they know their worth; after all, they’ve had it drilled into they for half their young lives that they are special; the world is theirs for the taking.

One consequence they are experiencing is stress in ways no generation before them ever did. The distance between the reality of their current situations and the expectations of where they’d be at 23 is further apart then ever. So now, they wonder aloud, “I thought my career would be rolling along, I’d be paid well for my talents and education. I’ve got a job, but that job isn’t what I want to do really, I want a career and I’m not getting it as fast as they led me to believe. I’m not getting interviews for jobs I apply to. It’s so hard.”

The gold is flaking off the treasured picture of success. Wanting it all – expecting it all at 23 – that just hasn’t panned out. The consequence is young adults are feeling not just stressed but disillusioned, let down, questioning themselves, wondering if they should take more courses, a second degree, seeing themselves as underachievers and wondering suddenly why this world that is theirs for the taking isn’t giving them everything they’ve had as it did up until now.

A lot of people in the previous generation – my generation felt this too. The thing is we didn’t feel what they feel until we were older, in our late 30’s or early 40’s. At 23 we didn’t expect it all but we were working towards getting it. At 23, what hasn’t developed is the very thing that would help with the stress they are experiencing; problem-solving skills built on real life experiences. We developed patience and worked towards getting our dreams fulfilled.

I’d suggest we understand young adults in their early twenties in this light and using this context. They aren’t greedy, self-centered or immature. They are bright, hopeful, well-educated academically and exactly what we hoped they’d be; aspiring. That they want and expect it all now is good, and the struggle they are just realizing they have to undergo to get it comes as surprising news. What we can do is what we have always done, encourage and support them as they grow.

Life is all about learning and it never stops. For if we had it all at 23, what would the next 50 – 70 years be for?

What Are YOU Waiting For?


Whether it’s deliberating on returning to school, putting off seeing a Mental Health Counsellor, having a mammogram or colonoscopy, getting in shape, taking that trip, saying I love you or any number of things you could be stalling over, I simply ask you, “what are you waiting for?”

Is it the right moment? When do you see that happening? What are you waiting to fall into place so the time is right?

Do. It. Now.

We know that time doesn’t wait; every powered clock ticks by and the second that just elapsed will never come again. Yes there is an urgency and you’ve been lucky so far in delaying taking action. So far, things haven’t significantly changed robbing you of the opportunity to do what it is your mulling or fretting over. However, with every passing second there is an increasing possibility that something can and will change, stealing your opportunity and that possibility will be replaced with regret. Is that what you want?

Consider: you might know someone who waited too long to tell another how much they were in love. Then what happened? In waiting for just the right moment, a third person entered in and with just a little more urgency said what they did not. Opportunity gone.

Maybe you know someone who said, “I should have gone back to school but I was waiting until I earned more money first…now I’m too old. There’s people who planned on traveling abroad and seeing the world but never actually went anywhere because instead they bended to family pressures and stayed home. Perhaps you know someone who always wanted to be a (fill in the blank) but put off really going for it because it just seemed too hard – and that disappointment still haunts them.

Too much can happen while you deliberate. People move or die, jobs get filled, prices rise, doors once open close, responsibilities surface, needs change… you get the point. Do it now.

I have to tell you that one of the biggest mental blocks I hear over and over in my job is, “but I’m too old now”. Who says so? is my reply. Most of the time the one person holding them back isn’t some Hiring Manager at a company they want to work for, nor is it someone in Human Resources refusing to advance their application. No, more often than not the person who thinks they are too old is the person themselves. Here it is in a nutshell: if you think you’re too old…you are. And until you change this crippling mindset you will continue to be.

How sad it is to be locked in some prison cell of our own making with the key in our hands and lamenting to anyone passing by that you just want to be released. The key (literally in this scenario) is in your hands! Open the door!

You always have choices: 1) Do it now. 2) Do it later (maybe) 3) Don’t do it.

If it’s important enough that you lie awake consumed with wanting badly; if it’s your every waking moment’s thought; if in your most personal and intimate moments of reflection it just keeps surfacing, don’t you owe it to yourself to make it your reality? At least to try?

How long is your lifespan? You have no idea of course. You imagine yourself living a set number of years, and you hope those will be in decent if not good health. Your time is finite. From the moment you were conceived and later breathed that first gasp of air your clock starting ticking and will at an unknown point suddenly stop without warning. Yours might stop at 34 years, 16 days and 23 minutes. Maybe it’s 51 years, 11 months and 6 minutes, 18 seconds. Of this you have no absolute knowledge or control.

What you can control is what you choose to do with the time you have now. What is important to you? Who are the people important to you? What are the causes you care about, where are the places you want to see in-person, what are the changes in the world you want to bring about that are important to you to make it a better place? What is the education or job you always wanted?

For if you knew you only had 2 years left, would you spend your remaining days going about life the way you are now? Would your answer change if you had 6 months? What if you knew you had 60 years left? Would having all that time left cause you to put off what you really want today?

Now you may be someone who wants to get going but can’t figure out what it is you really want. Maybe that’s at the core of your stress; the indecisiveness and associated inaction. DO SOMETHING. Nothing happens until you take action. So take a chance and learn from the outcome. Register for school, tell somebody how much you mean to them, go to the gym, buy the house, get on the plane, mend the feud that’s kept you apart, take the course, say yes instead of maybe.

With every passing second, you’re rolling the dice and gambling that they’ll always be time in the future to do what you want to do but lack the courage to do now.

Will your life be punctuated with a period or an exclamation mark? Hopefully not a dreaded question mark.

 

 

Modify Your Dream, Or Magnify Your Skills


Got a dream? Not just any old dream; a dream about yourself in the future where you are successfully employed or self-employed? Fantastic. It is likely that the you of your future is different in a number of ways from the present you. So how are you going to achieve that dream?

I’m willing to bet that the you of your future has enhanced skills; some newly acquired skills that put you in a position to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Without the new qualifications or enhanced skill set, it is unlikely that the vision you have for yourself will materialize, otherwise why couldn’t you walk out the door today and into that dream occupation?

By way of illustration, suppose your dream job is to be a Rodeo Clown. They can laugh all they want, but that’s your dream and you are entitled to it. If the extent of your exposure to horses and bulls is seeing them on television, or going on a trail ride once a year, it is unlikely you will be offered a job at the next Wild West show. In this case, you’re going to need more exposure to riding, learn the tricks of the trade, how to protect bull riders when they are rejected by the bull, and of course how to protect yourself. Without this additional learning and experience, you must scale down or drop your dream of being a Rodeo Clown because it’s just never going to happen.

Modifying your dream in the above illustration doesn’t necessarily mean you have to completely remove yourself from the proximity of it however. So instead of resigning yourself to working in a dingy office with your Business and Economics degree, perhaps you could find a way to get employed working for a Wild West company as their Business Manager, Accountant, etc. In other words, among the occupations that have a Rodeo Clown at the centre of a circle, are there jobs you could apply for that would in some way offer fulfillment for you. So you either modify your dream (Rodeo Clown no more, Rodeo Clown’s Business Manager moving forward), or you magnify your skills (Rodeo Clown school sign me up).

The major difficulty for many is they hold on to their original dream but fail to take the training, education, and gain the experience necessary to one day realize their career dream. Looking from the outside in, maybe you and I can see it’s never going to happen unless something changes in the person, but the person fails to see things objectively.

Perhaps the reason for holding on to a dream but doing nothing to bring it about is fear. After all, if you actually went and got required education, you couldn’t use that as an excuse anymore could you? Of if you took the time to try to get the education and failed, you’d have to admit your dream is over, and some people just want to have a dream to hold onto.

By the way, did you scoff at the example of a Rodeo Clown? Why didn’t I make it more believable, common place or realistic you ask? Well too often, a person is truly reluctant to share their dream because they fear ridicule and being dismissed. A person has the right to dream of being and doing whatever they find joy and happiness in. Just because that occupation may seem remote to you, or unattainable, I think it serves us well to give a person a chance to talk about what would really make them happiest. When they do, you might see passion, excitement and energy that has been lacking as they talked about jobs and occupations that were what they thought you wanted to hear from them but that they have little interest in. If you are in a position to help them succeed, or help them do the necessary research they need to get going, that’s the help you should provide.

The encouragement you offer another may be to listen, to ask questions, find out why that is appealing, how long that dream has been had, and challenge them to do a few things to find out more about making that dream a few steps closer. If in the research, the person realizes that the dream is actually unrealistic, such as in the case of needing 7 years of school to become a Dentist, that may help them move forward in another direction. On the other hand, if your words help them realize that their dream job is within their ability to make come true, you may have been the one person in their life that actually helped move them along. One day, they might retire from being a Rodeo Clown and at their retirement dinner, speak your name as the one person who encouraged them and helped make their dream come true.