When I ask my coaching clients what they dislike about their jobs, the responses I receive most often are these: I don’t like having to compete. I dread networking events. I dislike office politics.
But one thing I’ve learned from years of providing communication and leadership coaching is this: Ignoring those aspects of the job will not make them go away! In fact, avoiding the things you love to hate about work will eventually stall or derail your career.
Shifting your perceptions is the first step in transforming your aversions into a mindset that can help you get the career you want. Start by directing your energy toward fine-tuning the skills and qualities you already possess, rather than thinking you must become someone you are not to succeed at the getting-ahead game. Soon you will discover that you are already sitting on a goldmine – and that goldmine is you! Once you have identified your strengths, they will quickly become the building blocks of your very own career launching pad.
Here are a some more ways you can get ahead at work by leveraging those very things you love to hate.
Compete, Don’t Beat
So, tell me, how do you feel about competing? Think about the words you associate with competition. Do ‘aggressive’ and ‘back-stabbing’ come to mind? If so, it’s time for a little reframing! Competing is something we all do each day of our lives, starting as children (especially those of us with siblings). It’s not about being aggressive. It’s not about being cocky or pretentious. And it’s not about beating someone out or being beaten. Constructive competition is simply about striving for your goals by clearly communicating who you are, what you have accomplished in the past, what you are achieving at the moment, and your intentions for the future.
Remember, It’s Really Just A Party
Ah, the almighty networking event. For many people, the very thought of attending one gives them the shakes. They become anxious about such events because they hate the pressure to be ‘on.’ Forced mingling feels staged and the setting seems so contrived. But ask yourself this: Why do you go to parties? Most of us attend them for the very same reasons we go to networking events – to interact, make connections with people and have fun! The purely social purpose of a party is enjoyable and makes you feel relaxed. By approaching your next networking event with the same attitude you bring to a party, developing rapport with others will come more naturally. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, choose three people at the event and make it your business to get to know them. Treat each one as a potential new friend. Ask questions: Do they have kids? Where did they go to college? Any hobbies or causes they are particularly interested in? Details like these will provide a number of entry points for building relationships with those who can help you further your professional ambitions. So relax and enjoy yourself!
Get Ahead Without Losing Your Mind
Office politics exist in every business environment (unless, of course, you work alone), and rarely do they deserve the negative images they conjure up. Office politics are really just about interacting with people and positioning yourself in ways that will best accomplish your goals. So adding a few, simple communication habits to your repertoire will most definitely speed up the process of getting to where you want to go.
Email a report at the end of each week to your boss detailing that week’s successes, challenges, obstacles, and positive client feedback. Or if you already have regular in-person meetings scheduled, take some time at each one to underscore how well you’ve been performing.
Choose five people within your company with whom you would like to establish visibility – then actively pursue them in both formal and casual settings. Attend corporate functions. Get involved in a project or committee that is meaningful to you – such as diversity networks, recruiting or mentoring junior associates. Your efforts will be both personally and professionally rewarding.
Once you work these activities into your routine, playing the getting-ahead game will rapidly become not only second nature, but also fun!