Small journeys: the real definition of career advancement.
"It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction." - Rob Reiner
They say there is no such thing as an elevator to success. That statement is true. The fast track to going where we want to go is actually a long road with many stops along the way. Throughout my career, I have done many things and experienced situations that have all tied together to bring about a new milestone or experience that put me in a position of career advancement. However, many of these experiences have not been huge and groundbreaking - yet, they have all had a purpose of getting me to the next destination on the journey.
When I went to Germany for the first time, I took a train from Munich to Berlin. I remember that I was so excited to get to Berlin, but what was more intriguing and exciting were the things I saw and stops that we made along the way. I saw some gorgeous countryside and beautiful castles. It was picturesque. The end of the train ride was worth the other things that I experienced which led to that destination.
Here's a photo of the countryside that I took during my trip:
Lovely, isn't it?
Career advancement should be in the form of small stops and intriguing experiences that we find along the way. It might come in the form of networking, taking a course, or even doing research to make our knowledge in our field sharper; but the real key is that if you don't enjoy where those pit stops and added experiences are taking you, you won't appreciate the final destination.
Perhaps you've seen this guy:
He's climbing some really large steps there. I don't see anything around him except for the stairs he is arduously climbing. Do you see anything else here? What about this picture is misleading? (I'll give you a hint: there's no indication that there is anything around this guy with the briefcase except for the fact that he is moving in a straight line and looking forward the whole time to try to make it up the stairs. If you ask me, it looks so laborious and painful! I wouldn't want a career arch like that.)
My point? We need to appreciate taking small advances in our careers meanwhile enjoying the experiences along the way that prepare us for the ultimate goal or destination. It's all about the small moves in our career that prepare us for the big moments.
Have you seen this one posted all over social media? (Thanks to Wendy Terwelp):
This image is actually more like it. The line on the left is nothing other than straight. The line of the right looks like it continues to reinvent itself and takes multiple paths along the route... I think I can see the beautiful German landscape in one of those squiggly lines or that experience that we wanted to turn down because we thought it looked like a lot of work and we didn't see the end result....
We will still get to where we want to go even on the squiggly line route. It might mean that you need to take in some new scenery or stop and do something that you're not used to taking on.
There are many small moments in our career advancement journey that we can achieve on our own, and some of those come as confirmation from others. They can come in the form of a good meeting or an award acceptance speech.
Even the simple pat on the back is a form of success. A small token of confirmation of your path.
How do we make those moments happen? How do we get more of the 'I'm really getting to where I want to go in my career' moments that make us appreciate where we are and where we're going?
Here are Done By Friday's top 5 tips for helping advance your career in small ways along your journey to the big payoff:
#1 - Set more smaller goals than larger ones. This makes the pathway more manageable.
There is so much truth in enjoying the small things. They prepare you for what is to come. Daily goals should be the driving force behind our ultimate goals in our careers. If you don't start small, you can't grow and make what you want to do a reality. I've learned this over and over in my career. The smaller goals are also the most attainable and realistic - they are also great motivators to help you realize your skill and potential. Remember to write them down and continue to look at them.
#2 - If there is a stop along the way in your journey, get off the train and enjoy it.
Sometimes along the career path, we encounter stops that remind us of the wonderful journey we're on. A few years ago, I decided to take a couple of months off and reset for the next thing. It was a rewarding time that taught me many lessons. That time period was a blessing and I look back with gratitude for that set me up for the next big thing. If you can't take time off, maybe you need to take up a new hobby or interest. Take a trip, make the time. If you don't do it now, you may never have another opportunity.
#3 - Understand WHY you do something. That's your Passion Push as I like to call it.
So, what do you stand for? Why do you do what you do? What makes you excited about what you do? You should be able to sit down and write out why you do something. That statement is your passion push. It WILL change itself, so don't be afraid to sit down and edit that passion push. You will make advancements in your career if you keep being passionate about what you're doing. Even if you're in a rut and don't feel passionate, you might need to sit down and revise your statement. Mine has gone through many revisions.
Simon Sinek does a great TED Talk about finding your 'why' in what you do. Here's an excerpt:
#4 - In every small career advancement, look for ways in which that experience can lead you to the next thing.
While many good opportunities can fall in your lap, you have to create the majority of them. (Reference my last blog post for more on the opportunity topic.) I like to say that networking and looking for new opportunity is a full-time job in and of itself. Find out how to take smaller steps towards the next thing in your career. Perhaps it's networking, taking a course in an area that you want to learn more about, or even meeting with people who may hold the key to your next open door. I've mentioned in previous posts that there is enough success to go around and if someone cares about your career advancement they will help you.
#5 - Don't forget to say thank you to those who help advance your career - even in the smallest ways.
This is by far the most important. People want to hear 'thank you.' Even the cleaning crew at your office wants to hear these words. Appreciating others for what they do and how they help you is the ultimate key for moving forward.
Sidebar: I gave a similar talk earlier this year to students about career advancement. Here we are having some fun - because you know, ultimately you have to have fun on the journey!