There are many things in our careers that we have no control over, so I started thinking about the things that we actually can control. Isn't it true that we often undervalue our own power to improve our work lives? In a recent NYTimes article, Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp said something that I find very honest from an employer: “This is your life. This is your career. I’m here to set you up for success. But you’re driving.” Inspired, I compiled 6 tips to driving your career that I hope will benefit your company, your colleagues, and yourself.
1. See the potential in yourself. Know your own weaknesses and opportunities for growth better than anybody else -- having humility in all the things you don't know will drive you to work harder and learn faster. You should never be blindsided during mid-year and annual reviews with your manager. In fact, you should be adding to the list of things you'd like to develop further within yourself.
2. Banish that concept of "beneath you" kind of work. Some of the most junior team members are closest to tracking data, executing on your business and watching your competitors. Keep your fingers on the pulse of your business: don't look down on the "junior" tasks (i.e. pulling and analyzing data) that are often most critical to influencing strategy.
3. If you don't feel intellectually challenged, find your own challenge. Put in longer hours to take your projects to another level beyond what's asked. Think of work as getting paid to learn and investing in your professional development, instead of just a means to pay the bills. Remember: some people go back to grad school to learn the kind of things that you get to learn for free!
4. Don't obsess over your job description. Your actual job will never completely match your job description, so don't obsess with what's on paper. Stubbornly committing to a defined role makes you inflexible to change, and guess what-- industries change and evolve all the time. Your title may not be reflective of your actual responsibilities, but remember what's actually important (your responsibilities).
5. Say yes to projects that are not in your field. Raise your hand for new work on new teams. Deeply understanding other teams' contribution to the company will help you understand the entire business in a more comprehensive way. Your perspective may actually provide great insight to a team that has only been seeing things in one way.
6. Practice communicating the hard stuff. If you have any working relationship issues with your team, ask if you can do anything to help. If your manager is too micromanaging or doesn't manage enough, it's your responsibility to schedule that one-on-one meeting to identify ways to improve working together, and to do it with compassion and respect.