No One Owns Your Career but You

When I ask women how they feel about their careers, I seldom hear an outright “awesome!” Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have used that word myself for my corporate career either. I had some amazing opportunities come my way. I loved working at The Boston Consulting Group, and I feel tremendously blessed to have “stumbled” into that firm fresh out of college. Working for BCG was one of the best choices I ever made. But in hindsight, there was always something missing. Not because of what I was offered, but because of what I didn’t ask for.

If you have ever felt this way, read on.

Here are three important facts I learned over the years:

1.       No one has as much interest in your career as you.

2.       Opportunities only show up when you are open to them.

3.       No one can read your mind.

 Photo by Igor Link

Photo by Igor Link

 

1.       No one has as much interest in your career as you.

You may have a well-meaning boss or a mentor but let’s face it: You are the one who benefits the most from your successful career and you are the one who has to live with your paycheck. All areas of your life are impacted by your career. Other people have their own lives and challenges. You are not at the center of attention of everyone else’s life.

Take ownership. Look at yourself: What do you bring to the table? Block out an hour this week to take stock of your brilliance, your “distinctive uniqueness.” No one has the exact same background as you. Write down all the amazing talents and skills you have. What experiences have helped you become the powerful woman you are? What’s your story? What have you accomplished so far (in any area of your life)? Make a list of your accomplishments and take a moment to acknowledge yourself for them.

2.       Opportunities only show up when you are open to them.

Don’t underestimate your own potential, or you may not even see your best opportunities. Your subconscious mind is an effective filter mechanism that suppresses your attention to everything that’s not within your perceived options for yourself. It takes it off your radar. So it’s well possible that you have been missing out on opportunities just because they “haven’t shown up for you,” although they actually have been there. Upgrade your self-belief. Take a moment to feel into your potential. Go back to your list of all the awesome things you have achieved to date. I’m sure it’s impressive. Based on these accomplishments, what else is possible for you? Remember, no one limits us but ourselves.

With that in mind, write down your vision of your dream career: Where do you work, what position are you in, who’s on your team? Who are your clients? Once you are clear on your vision, you’re in a good position to define what your next step towards this vision should be. What is that next level for you? What would be an immediate upgrade, however small (or big)?

Then look around with different eyes. It’s a bit like refreshing your browser: You will see that new search results will now pop up on your “screen.” Grab them! It’s time to make a move, today.

3.       No one can read your mind.

Once you have identified your next-level job or promotion options, go for them. No one can read your mind. It’s your role to ask for what you want.

Polish up your resume, speak to the relevant contacts in your organization, apply, even if you think you don’t have all the requirements. Remember that it’s impossible to have all the experience described in your next-level job posting; if you did, it would be same level or a step down.

If you think that you’re not qualified enough, not experienced enough, not prepared enough, that’s a lie. It’s easy to find a “not enough” when we look for an excuse. Trust that you can do it, and others will as well.

You may think there’s bias at your firm that could work against you. It may be subtle, it may even be obvious. My humble advice? For your purpose to get promoted, forget about bias. Jump right over it. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Whatever works. The more attention you give any signs of bias, the more they will slow you down. And that’s the last thing you want, right?

Alternatively, you could always look outside and apply for a job in a more favorable culture. Just do something. Don’t get stuck. Take action. Speak up for yourself.

Now is the time to do the work you love, to make the money you want, to move up in your career. There is no better time.

No one owns your career but you. Take it to the level of your choice.