“Why hasn’t this promotion happened for me, yet? What am I not doing?”
These are questions that have haunted many of us, myself included. Our careers are often how we define ourselves. Many of us spend more time at work than with our families. Then we go home and spend a great deal of our energy speaking about work to those in our personal lives.
“Am I not good enough? Why don’t they recognize the work I’m doing?”
Approval is an undeniable cornerstone to our basic needs these days, and as our culture via social media continues to cultivate an insatiable desire for “likes,” we seek that same validation at work. Maslow taught us that things associated with our physiological and safety needs should be our first two priorities.
Not in these days. It is ALL about love & belonging as well as self-esteem.
(Oh and on a side note, please be sure to like this article, like all my recent Facebook posts, and don’t forget to find me on Instagram at anewdayvid and like EVERYTHING on there.)
Jokes aside, when we take these transitions in social norms and apply them to our careers, we realize the impact it has on us. For some, recognition and gratitude are enough. For most of us, we want and deserve a promotion. The struggle is, what we think we deserve and what our reality is are often not aligned to our liking.
My love, my passion, dare I say it, my chosen purpose has become to help others develop to their fullest potential. A career in retail has afforded me countless opportunities to watch individuals become young leaders through tireless efforts, by receiving tough developmental feedback and by exhibiting a ton of perseverance.
So I decided to take a step back and outline some things that I’ve seen hinder others’ (and my own) career progress.
Avoid Being Impatient – Focus on the Journey Instead
For vulnerability’s sake, I’ll confess that I’m a testament to impatience. While I’ve had many wonderful opportunities for growth and new responsibilities bestowed upon me, I’ve never successfully interviewed for an official promotion.
It’s wearing me down. It’s embarrassing, and I often question if I’m even in the right field.
However, while helping my team cope with the waiting game of development, I’ve settled on the most natural analogy of which I can think to compare our careers to.
Texas Chili. Mmmmmm…..
I’m from Texas, and we know great chili. It is no secret that some of the best recipes out there taste amazing because they are slow cooked. You could take all the ingredients and seasonings, mix them up quickly, and then serve them. However, you and I both know that the secret is in the time spent with the flavors marinating.
I have adopted the mindset that the longer I work in my current role, the more I’m able to observe and learn what to do and more often, what NOT to do. I’ve seen far too many promoted too soon and fail. I’ve tried to reframe my mindset to believe this is a chance to excel at the next role faster.
Another important step in focusing on the journey is documentation. What good is all this experience if you’ve not written it down to easily recall it?
I suggest creating an email draft or sending an actual email to yourself in order to file it by categories of behavior. If that next position requires great time-management or the ability to communicate, you should probably have stories readily available on those two topics. You could also journal them if you prefer that method of reflection. Review them monthly so they can stay top of mind and so that you might build upon them. When that big interview does finally come, you’ll have clear and concise examples of why you’re ready to take on that next big challenge and share the best details of your journey.
Avoid Comparing Your Career to Another’s Career – Focus on Helping Those Around You
Do you want to know what will slowly siphon the joy out of your heart and soul?
The game of comparison.
Time after time I’ve watched others get promoted around me. I didn’t understand it then, and to be honest in some cases I still don’t.
If I could measure the amount of anxiety I’ve had around this issue in time shaved off the end of my life, I’d probably be in for a rude awakening.
But the issue was never them. It was my attitude. Instead of celebrating a great step in their journey, I remained internally focused on my situation. My own selfishness (and jealousy) was slowly poisoning my perspective, and a man without perspective is not a man I want to be.
Instead, I needed to remember that no one’s path is exactly the same – nor is their destination. More importantly, spending time with similar goals and creating mutual developmental relationships is what will set you and your peers apart. It might seem counter-intuitive to help someone else’s career, but I always go back to the principles presented by author, Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
It’s important to think Win, Win.
Can you imagine if everyone in your network of friends, family, or coworkers spent all of their time lifting each other up? What would it be like to be surrounded by people that not only cared about you, but were motivated to help you succeed by providing positive AND negative specific feedback plus encouragement along the way?
If you’re upset that your reality does not fit that description, remember we all get back from the universe what we put into it. If you aren’t making a conscious effort to model behaviors you’d like to see, then you’re the only person to blame.
Avoid Thinking About the Work You Want to Do – Focus on the Work You Are Doing
I had an employee who was, if I’m being honest, one of the most disgruntled I had encountered. Day in and day out he complained about why he wanted to be promoted because that’s the work that interested him.
Now, this situation has variations depending on the person. You may have taken a job to get your foot in the door. You may have happily taken a job because of your interest in the position, but maybe it wasn’t what you thought it would be. You also may have developed other interests after the fact.
All of those reasons are valid.
That does NOT give you permission to be terrible at or be apathetic about your job because it doesn’t “interest” you anymore. At the end of the day, you signed the dotted line (so to speak) and have agreed to show up to perform a role. You have full control over what you do for a living and where you spend your time. Having a lack of interest in the job one does is a normal and common problem, but have enough integrity to show up to work every day and give it your all.
Plus, if you want a promotion, your boss is NOT going to be very interested in giving you different or more responsibilities if you’re not performing in your current role.
None of this is rocket science nor anything new to the traditional school of thought for most. My motivation is simply to help you (and I) take a step back and assess our current situation then focus on the things that are within our control. You cannot give yourself a promotion. You CAN focus on your journey, the work you’re doing, and the people you help.
If you’re reading and saying to yourself, “my situation is different,” you’re wrong. It’s not.
Now get to work and make your aspirations a reality.