“We’ve decided to give you another year to try for a promotion.”
I had been anxious about this discussion with my boss all week long. Year-end results were being announced and it was my second time trying for a promotion that I really wanted.
My first thought was, “Excuse me….what?!” I had been giving my best at work with great feedback from clients and yet, I was lagging behind every peer and junior colleague as I watched them shoot up the corporate ladder.
I felt frustrated, angry and stuck in a cycle of blaming the whole world.
“It’s the 2 sets of maternity leave I took for having my kids.”
“I’m a minority in this organization.”
“I’m just not good enough.”
I internalized this decision as a flaw in me, my talent, my personality, my life choices and decided I was just not cut out for a life in consulting. I looked for other jobs and almost took one offer but something in me forced me to evaluate my actions.
Maybe “I” was missing something. I had been doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. What if I put my ego aside and made a change in the way I was shaping my career?
I went back to my boss and several senior executives and asked them for help. This one piece of advice I got changed everything.
“Punya….people are running their career like a political campaign.”
This completely changed how I looked at my job. It hit me that I had been driving my career on auto-pilot the whole time, waiting for things to happen.
I created a 6-month plan to take action and started implementing these ideas. Taking charge of my success was my biggest career breakthrough and this changed everything. Here are the six steps I took to run my career like a political campaign.
1. Ask for help.
Most people are willing to help you. You have to be clear about what you want and ask for it. What’s the worst that could happen? The answer is “no” if you don’t ask anyway. Not everyone in my firm had the time to help. But as I started asking for help, most people were willing to give me advice and I gained clarity on my next steps.
2. Bring a POV.
Don’t be the note taker in meetings. That’s a sure way to get assigned the permanent job of drafting the meeting minutes. While it requires talent to capture all the details of meetings, especially with senior executives or very technical client stakeholders, it does not help to position you as a leader.
I started really engaging in the meeting discussion and expressing my point of view (POV). At first, it felt weird, but as I started using that muscle, my confidence grew and I started getting noticed by my seniors for my ideas.
3. Own a project from start to end.
I had always been the person who just took whatever projects/roles came my way. It was only when I consciously started discussing my roles on projects, what work areas I would own and what I’d be accountable for that my seniors started taking me seriously.
4. Be deliberate in building relationships.
As an introvert, I hate networking. I hated attending random events and hoping I would, by chance, meet people who could make a difference to my career and vice versa. It’s exhausting! But what about targeted networking? Yes, please! Doing my research to shortlist the professionals who could make an impact in my career and vice versa, shifted my entire approach towards networking and got me tremendous results.
5. Raise your hand (a.k.a., make your boss’s life easier).
If you can become the go-to person for your boss or seniors, you’re golden. I started communicating my brand and asking for opportunities from my network. This helped me get projects that perfectly fit my skills and also helped me mentor my team and help them succeed in their career.
6. Act as if you’ve already succeeded.
This is not a “fake it till you make it” so much as a mindset shift. It took a while before I realized that I had all the skills to get promoted, but I wasn’t signaling that to my seniors. I wasn’t showing up in the senior role I wanted. I wasn’t displaying confidence and I wasn’t thinking like a senior executive. The moment I told myself I was ready for the next level, it was like a switch flipped and everything came together beautifully.
Did these actions push me way out of my comfort zone? Yes.
Did I have the steepest learning curve of my career that year? Yes.
Did I get promoted? Yes!
So, if you feel stalled in your career, ask yourself if you’re taking the above steps to drive your career vs. waiting for things to happen. Communicate your worth and seek out the opportunities and people that can help you succeed. Most importantly, run your career like a political campaign.
Punya is a former management consultant with 15 years of experience at 2 Big4 firms, serving top Fortune500 clients. She has lived and worked in 6 countries and changed 3 careers working across several industries. Punya is passionate about sharing the crucial, but little known business skills that can help you stop playing small, land the most high profile projects and build a reputation that gets you the recognition you deserve. Find her on the BYOND GOOD Blog, Quora, or Linkedin.