My whole career I have witnessed employees who are striving for more responsibility at work. They want promotions and career success and are working hard to achieve those.
This has given me a front-row seat to the strategies people use to get ahead. Some come in early and work late, hoping the extra hours they put in get the attention of leadership. Some take complete ownership of their area of responsibility. If they are a project manager they won’t let anyone else near their area – they own it and if you want access then you have to go through them.
Some constantly strive to improve their network and work hard to grow and cultivate a large network of people they can reach out with opportunities.
This has shaped my opinion on getting ahead and being successful in a work environment. While all of these strategies may or may not work in any given scenario I have found some things that always seem to help.
First, losing a sense of entitlement can become a great strategy. Doing this means you will approach everything more humbly and be willing to take a fresh look before jumping in.
Entitlement often leads to poor decisions by people who have too much. They spend more time hanging on to something than embracing something new. They feel wronged when someone else gets something they feel they deserve (such as a promotion) and then their behavior becomes very negative.
Second, fear causes people to avoid jumping into new areas that might have a ton of opportunity. If there is uncertainty around a new project many people will not want to jump in and take on that project. Their thought is that it is more important to avoid failure.
But some of the times when I have grown the most were from horrible projects that were expected to go nowhere and I somehow found a way to drive them forward.
It is similar to going to see a movie that you expect to be great. If it is just good then it disappoints. But if you don’t have high expectations of a movie and it is just good then you come away impressed that it was better than you thought it would be.
But most people take the exact opposite approach. They avoid the tough projects and situations trying to stick to a much safer place.
The last thing I noticed is that curiosity makes up for lack of knowledge. I’ve seen people who don’t have a lot of knowledge in a certain area come in and quickly gain the insights they need by being incredibly curious. They are always asking questions and learning more and more.
Combine this with the lack of entitlement mindset and you get someone who can quickly gain more insight than someone who has spent years with that specific program area.
If you ask most people what is important to get ahead they will say attitude. But attitude can mean anything. Therefore it is too general to really apply it to your life in a systematic manner.
Instead find the specific traits that are important and then think about how you can practice those. Think about times when you are avoiding a project due to fear or you are being too controlling and not letting go and try to be less entitled. Be willing to ask questions and learn through curiosity rather than always trying to position yourself as the smartest person in the room.
Career success is possible for almost anyone willing to work hard and keep a humble mindset. There are many commonly used strategies that backfire and hold you back. So go forward knowing you have a lot to learn and constantly strive to gain new insights along the way and you will certainly find that you reach new heights as you grow your career.