As a growing professional, I am always interested in learning how and why others I work with or admire landed the roles or career paths they are currently in. I ask a lot of questions, I apply for a lot of opportunities, sometimes I land the job, other times I do not, but all of it is a learning experience. I have loved some of the positions I have been fortunate enough to have and some, I realized, were not the right fit for me, but I appreciate the skills I developed in each role.
I have learned so many valuable tips and tricks by asking individuals who have really taken control of their career. The one thing I have learned that is true is that luck has very little to do with it. The answer is much more black and white than luck or a magic genie. The answer is in seeking appropriate support to attain or create a career which is more parallel to your goal job.
Four consistent things I have noticed about individuals, who are not very happy with their current roles are that they:
- Wait for approval, from their supervisor or the hiring manager, to apply for a position. What if that conversation never happens? Putting your life in someone else’s hands is a dangerous decision. They might honestly never put two and two together and also, it is a huge assumption to think that most people are that focused on another person’s career.
- Will not apply for a position, unless they meet all the qualifications listed on the job fact sheet.
- Do you know how many opportunities I have received where I did not meet every qualification of the job? Every job I have had, I have not met every requirement. The job fact sheet for any position is the employer’s wish list; they themselves most often do not expect to receive applications where an individual meets every request.
- Typically struggle with impostor syndrome when/if they do get the interview, even if they are the most qualified candidate.
- If you got an interview, you got an interview! Prepare for it like it is the game of your life. Do not expend any energy wondering why you got the interview. You got the interview! Now take advantage of it, so that no matter what the outcome, you can say you gave your interview your all and did not squander the chance.
The only true thing that has worked for me has been asking for what I want. Asking for what I want has allowed me to receive much more of what I want.
Do you want an interview for that great job opportunity? Take the hiring manager out for coffee and discuss the job with them. Let them know that you are interested and also, allow yourself the opportunity to hear more about the job, to see if it is really what you were hoping for.
Tell the person. It sounds so simple, but with most things in life, the simplest things are the hardest things to do. They are the hardest things to do because they seem too easy, like there should be a catch or a pitfall towards achieving your goal. The pitfall is probably you are not doing everything in your power to try and achieve something you really want.
Learn to make your goals a priority and vocalize them to individuals who can help you achieve said goals because it will be a huge catalyst in a successful career path.
Here are seven simple steps you can follow to take charge of your life and start asking for what you expect/want/deserve, for a better professional future:
- Think about what you want and who can help you achieve your goal.
- Set up a meeting with people who may be able to assist you.
- Depending on how well you know them, gauge the appropriate level of meeting place and time. For example, if this is someone you know personally, (i.e. you have texted them or met them for something social before) meeting for lunch is sometimes a relaxing setting for the conversation to be had. If this is someone you do not know at all or very well, meeting them for coffee, but suggesting a couple of dates and times (to accommodate their schedule) is useful. Also, always meet the person on their turf, their office, a coffee shop or restaurant near them, do not make them come to you.
- Prepare what you want to discuss with the individual. Actually create a list or bullet points of what you are asking of them. Having something in writing will keep you on track, will ensure you use the time efficiently and can help you if your nerves kick in and you go blank during the meeting.
- Make sure to come in prepared. Thoroughly read and be up to date on the organization, its mission, and the position’s roles and responsibilities. Getting the meeting is a small fraction of the work required before the meeting. Do not get lazy and go in ill prepared because it will be obvious if you do.
- Meet with the individual, but start slowly. Do not just go blasting in with your request; spend five to fifteen minutes making small talk and doing a check-in.
- See how they are doing and genuinely be interested in their life because they potentially could be the one to help you improve your own.
- Let the individual know what you are needing from them. Ask them, straight up, if this is something they would be willing to help you with. Be clear. Be direct. Be confident with what you are asking and do not apologize in any capacity.
- It can be a really bad habit to be constantly apologizing to the person for taking up their time. You do not have them at gunpoint (I hope), so they willingly chose to meet with you.
- Thank them for their time. Do not apologize for taking up their time, but thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
- No one has made it to where they are without the help or support of somebody. We are all in this together and the more we support each other, the better everyone does. Do not apologize for asking for support, rather congratulate yourself for utilizing your resources appropriately.
- Follow up with a thank you or progress update email a day to three days after the meeting.
- If you ended up applying for the position, let them know! They are a cheerleader in your career efforts and will appreciate being kept in the loop.
- Do you want them to mentor you and are you hoping for these meetings to become a regular event? Ask for it. Tell them you have gained so much for them and are hoping to see them a few times a year or once a month for check-ins or support. Most people will be honest and sincere about their capacity and, I hope, most would be willing to take an hour for a coffee every once in awhile to support someone else.
This sounds really simple and you might be thinking that you have not learned anything you already did not know, but the one question I have for you is ‘Have you ever actually carried this process out?’ This is not a magical formula, it is not going to work every single time you use it, but the more you utilize it, the more comfortable you will be with the process and the higher your chances of reaching those goals you aspire to and/or understanding what you need to invest into to attain those goals sooner.
I know that the number one reason why someone would not follow through with these steps is not because they question their validity; the number one reason is fear. It is really, really scary putting yourself out there, in any capacity. It shows vulnerability and some people may see that as a weakness. The one thing I know to be true is the more honest you are and more direct you are, the easier life gets. It is hard to ask for something, but it is even worse not trying and staying in something you do not enjoy.
Do not be afraid to ask for what you want. If you don’t, you only hurt yourself because others will assume you are happy with where you are at or they will not think about your situation at all. If you do not advocate for your own success you are telling the universe that you are not in control of your professional path. The choice is simple: whether you want to be randomly fluttering through your career or in control of the steering wheel.