By: Revanche

How to Unlock Your Achievements

October 20, 2011

Pardon, you might think you’re at the wrong blog today.  But I’ve got to go on another career-related rant.  My colleague told me today that someone was “upset” at the organization.  When I asked why, I was told that the someone had wanted to apply for a promotion but wasn’t allowed to because of a lack of a specific key qualification.  That someone was upset: I’ve been here for years, and I’ve never been given the opportunity to do that!

……..  Really?  Really??

Ok. Nerve? Torched.  Because honest to Jeopardy, darling, that’s just it, isn’t it?  You’ve been here for years and that’s the end of your response?  No one took care of you?  Did you do anything about it?   Or did you sit there like a limp noodle the whole time and then jump at the chance for more money without considering what you needed to do in order to land that peach?  [I can answer that. No. Didn’t do nuffin’.]

And now you’re upset at the organization that wronged you.  Honestly. 

“I wasn’t given an opportunity.” 
“I didn’t get a chance to show you what I could do.” 

I’ll give you a hint:  These are not the phrases to use when you want a job or a promotion and you’ve been told that you’re underqualified because of some missing skill or qualification.

In fact, I will heartily tell you that I am sick of hearing them.  Don’t even think it.  Imagine your upcoming job or career opportunities.  Imagine what the recruiter, hiring manager or resume screener is going to think when he/she/it looks at your resume and compares it to the list of what they want or need.  If you find yourself reverting to those up there as your only answer (aka: excuse) when your hiring manager disabuses you of the notion that you’re going to get the job, I want you to Shake Yourself.

Non.  Non.

Not only will that not get you the job, it will, in certain eyes, reduce any respect they might have had for you.  Like mine.  

Tell me, why do you need the opportunities given to you?   

Let me tell you what I’ve discovered that phrase and the utterers have in common: a need for spoonfeeding.  It says to me, on your behalf:  When you hire me, I’m going to ask you basic questions to which I should know the answers or should be able to find myself.  And when you don’t have time to feed me, I’m going to do something else without bothering to try to find out the answer myself.

As it turns out, Google is your friend. As it turns out, there are tons of other resources available and when it comes to allocation of resources, do you want to waste our half hour on: “How do I write my review? How does this process work?  What should I write?”

Or do you want to spend it talking over which skills you need to set you up for a cool new project and in line for a promotion?  Because I will answer the question you ask. But if you want to throw away what I can do for you, then you are throwing away your own opportunity. And frankly, I have too many other people asking for time and attention to mollycoddle anyone who won’t do anything but flip their hair and flap their hands until the next question.

I’m inclined to helping people grow and learn but there’s only so much pushing I can do.   I’ve learned my lesson – I’m not going to hire any more people who display that lack of savvy and initiative if I can help it.

Sometimes, it’s valid 

Granted, there are certain things you need the support of others to do, you need the authority to do, or you plain cannot have without someone giving something up.

Very true, you must be given some of those things.   However.  You can show your initiative by learning about the things you want to do even if you cannot whole-cloth have them.  You can take classes, you can shadow people who are doing the job, you can ask them to mentor and teach you, you can volunteer elsewhere to pick up the experience you want even if it’s not in the same place or environment.

If it’s an internal promotion you have your sights on, you should, without being obnoxious about it, express your interest clearly in the kind of advancement or experience you would like and why.  In general, you should always be doing that anyway!

If you’re going for a new job and it wasn’t your job to do the work in question but you’ve gone and learned it anyway, you bet your boot nails I will rate you more highly than a person who did have the work and was not distinguished in any way by how they did it.

Think about it: who looks better?  The one with fire in the belly, clearly has special interest and has done something about it?  Or the one who has been flapping hands around in a puddle looking like doing a job?  I’m no idiot – I want the fire-eater, every time.

That’s not to say that someone who already does the job always gets trumped by an up and comer, I’m just saying that there are clearly mediocre lifer-type candidates who barely do their job.  We know they shouldn’t get promoted over someone with real potential because they aren’t capable.   But — you can’t be that newcomer if you don’t realize your own potential.  No one can do that but YOU.

Potential is just resting, potential is possibilities.  Don’t tell me you have potential.  Show me what that potential can be. Get out there and show what you’re capable of with every possible tool at your disposal.  Ask for support and learn new things.  Don’t just sit there waiting for opportunity to present itself.  You’re just kicking opportunity in the face.

Show me your will, that is the way.

Ironically, as I write this, I clicked through an email notifying me that has posted on her blog, writing about her journey of the past ten years.  I keep an eye on people who have the same drive to succeed that I do, even if my path is nowhere near like hers.  And you know what?  The essence of her message is very much the same: 

This world does not hand you success. It certainly doesn’t hand you a job. I’ve had to fight for everything I’ve had in this life. I’ve taught myself what I need to know to be successful. And, if you see yourself in any of this, my message to you is: You can do it, too. Just don’t expect it to be easy.

[For the record: I passed along a message to my colleague. If that someone did something like take initiative, I’d do a solid in return and recommend that a future application be considered. I may have learned my lesson but that someone should learn one too.]

5 Responses to “How to Unlock Your Achievements”

  1. Oy, people are nuts.

    The spoonfeeding thing reminded me of the rotation student I worked with last year. (excuse me while I go on a mini-rant in your comments)

    He did pretty good work, but he honestly didn’t seem that interested. When he gave his end of term presentation, he said something to the effect of “I would have gotten more done, but Insomniac didn’t give me anything else to do”.

    Never mind that the first time I tried to give him something else, he studied instead, and the second time he didn’t show up due to an “emergency”, but he also didn’t call, text, or email me to let me know he wouldn’t be there.

    Dude, when I was a rotation student, whenever I had down time, I’d ask if there was anything else I could do to help. If not, I’d ask other people if they needed help, or if I could watch whatever they were doing. Almost everyone is willing to let a rotation student or undergrad (or just new person in general) tag along and watch, and will answer a reasonable number of questions.

    Whatever. People are nuts.

    I’m always curious what it is that makes some people so lazy, and others so driven, though.

  2. I love this post!

    First – it’s a reminder to kick-start myself again. I was the fire-eater, but I’ve lulled into the spoon-feeder I think.

    Second – it’s a wonderful piece on the fact that no matter who you work for or what you do, someone is always evaluating you and you should always be learning!

    In my job, I’ve taken it upon myself to upgrade my college diploma to a university degree, part-time, while working full-time. I have no further opportunities with my current company, but within the field this one upgrade, combined with my years of experience, take me from a junior /intermediate position to an intermediate/senior position. My current employer can’t understand why I’d want to upgrade. Nevermind the fact that it adds credibility to my work and our company, but it really should be writing on the wall that there aren’t any places I can further myself where I am, and i”m looking to set myself up for a furthering position at another company in a few years time.

    The post you’ve written can work the other way around as well. You’ve got a fire-eater in your midst, but you’re terrified of their go-get attitude, so you ostracize them into feeling like they are less than they are. This causes them to know that their go-get, fire-eating attitude isn’t what you want, or can handle, and causes them to diminish themselves to stay employed.

  3. asgreen says:

    great post! I completely agree that you have to take control of your career and you can’t expect people to just “notice”. I’ve realized that even after all the work I’ve done I’m not going anywhere at my current company. So what am I doing? Looking for something new!

    I hate when people expect the world to be handed to them and then get upset when it isn’t!

  4. I had a talk with my department head the other day, and she mentioned that she sits on a “talent committee” with the other important department heads of our company, and they try to scout our future VPs from the existing pool of high performers. Out of the 4 qualities that they consistently see in higher performers, being vocal about your desires to move up is one of them. I think it’s easier when you put yourself in the boss’s shoes – he/she probably manages a whole bunch of people, and unless they’re mindreaders, you’re more likely to get what you want if you’re upfront with them.

    My parents are from a culture where you’re supposed to show your potential by doing, and not by asking to be recognized. So I do hesitate and feel a bit … shameless when asking for opportunities. But so far, I’ve found it to be the easiest way to get ahead in my company – well, that plus hard work, of course.

  5. Yup. I got my step up to administration by asking for the job. Also, while I was teaching I was highly entrepreneurial. I dreamed up and engaged a number of projects and improvements, two of which I implemented on my own.

    There’s a fair amount of risk involved in that kind of behavior, though. Not everyone is entrepreneurial, not everyone is a risk-taker, and not every manager appreciates those who are.

    Organizations need to make room for those to whom initiative does not come naturally, as well as for the fire-in-the-belly type. Both have their uses.

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