5 Steps To Taking Charge of Your Career

Last Updated Oct 26, 2011 6:39 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,
This isn't a question, just a thanks to helping me with my career. I've been at the same organization since I was 24 and I am about to turn 32. So, basically I've grown up with the same boss for most of my professional career.
I recently had become disillusioned with the amount of respect that I feel that my boss gave me and attributed it to her not realizing that I'm not the same immature worker as I was in my mid twenties.
Last spring I started reading your blog and...a light bulb went off. It's not her. It's me. My frustration was due to me not feeling like she takes me seriously (her go-to gal is a woman who has two years less seniority) and I was becoming seriously unhappy with my job.
Guess what? I looked at myself and realized that the reason why I wasn't the go-to gal is because I wasn't assertive and just expected her to notice me.
I started becoming assertive and letting my colleagues know how confident I was in my answers (instead of backing down because I was afraid of hurting feelings or being wrong) and basically realized that I need to worry about ME and not about what anyone else is doing.
I'm now a lot happier because my colleagues are slowly trusting me because I'm more assertive and confident and I no longer feel like I'm being passed over.
I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to get this email. It's a little validation that I'm actually helping people and not just entertaining those who live to find my typos. (You know who you are.)
  1. Respect is earned, not granted as if by fairy godmother. It's easy to moan and complain that your ideas aren't respected and awfully hard to say, "Gee, my ideas aren't respected. I wonder what I'm doing wrong?" It's something you need to consciously work towards attaining. Even people with exalted titles don't have the respect of their underlings unless they've earned it. Sure, they can have the fear of their employees based on title and power alone, but respect is, without a doubt, something that must be earned.
  2. Time in seat does not equal experience. Yes, some time in seat is generally necessary to have the qualifications to do most jobs, but the reality is, sitting there longer doesn't mean you're more valuable. Just as respect is earned, your value is judged (or should be judged, anyway) by what you do and are willing to try.
  3. Confidence is a huge key to success. My BNET colleague, Kimberly Weisul just reported on a new study that shows confidence can be more important than being right. People (frequently women) who hedge their statements with, "I think that..." and "If we have to choose between X and Y then maybe X..." and "I'm not sure, but..." are not going to be taken as seriously as someone who comes in and says, "The best path is..." and "We have two possibilities, X and Y, and because of A, B, and C, I propose we do X." Even though they may be suggesting the same path, the confident person will be listened to.
  4. There's no crying in business. Okay, there's lots of crying in business. But, there shouldn't be because of day to day interactions. As long as people are not being bullies or mean, telling someone about a mistake or having a different opinion shouldn't hurt anyone's feelings. And as long as you're polite about it, if feelings are hurt, it's not your fault.
  5. Focus on your own career, and not on what your coworkers are or are not doing. So much of office angst revolves around "fair." Life is not fair. Furthermore, if you're reading this you have internet and computer access and are therefore ahead of most in the world, so I doubt you truly want things to be "fair." Stop worrying about your coworker who comes in late, your coworker who gets promoted ahead of you, and your coworker who is always in the boss's office. Focus on what you need to do, what your responsibilities are, and figure out your goals.
These five things are keys to career happiness and success. I'm thrilled to have been a small part of your success in finding these things out. I predict future success for you.

For further reading:
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.
Photo by fdecomite, Flickr cc 2.0,

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