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Re-ignite Your Career Without Leaving Your Company

Q: I feel stuck, burned out and in the dark about the big picture. I want to stretch a little, try something new, increase my marketability--without giving up my golden handcuffs.  But I’m afraid my company will never change its perceptions of who I am or what I can do? Is the current tough job market my only path for growth?

A: If you are feeling stymied, should you assume your career is doomed unless you move to another organization? Not necessarily. While there may be firms whose culture and management are so rigid they can't adjust to new ideas, many companies welcome a little creativity and out-of-the-box logic. Before you decide to forego your juicy benefit package, implicit understanding of "the way things work around here," and the credibility you've developed with your colleagues over the years, give some of the following suggestions a try. You may be surprised by the results!

Make the Most of Your Current Position

        When you've been in one position for a while, it's easy to fall into a comfortable complacency.  To broaden your perspective and maximize your contribution, consider borrowing the philosophy of zero-based budgeting. Clear the decks and take an objective look at everything you're doing. You'll undoubtedly find some of the processes you're using were developed by your predecessor(s) to fit their personalities or the requirements of their time. If your methods or activities have outlived their usefulness, replace them with ones more in tune with today's needs. While the change may be a little painful, the results will be worth it.

        Think of your career as a small business (Me, Inc.) and your current job as your most recent consulting assignment.  Where do you want your business to go from here?  What are your one-to-three-year goals?  Are you on the right track to reach them?  Because the corporate climate of the 2010s makes no guarantees for long-term, progressive employment, you must proactively pursue your chosen career path without assuming your employer will take care of you.  If you think like an entrepreneur, you can avoid corporate co-dependency and take charge of your future.          

         If you have been wanting to learn a new skill or position, volunteer for a project within you department that will stretch your intellect, increase your knowledge, and give you more visibility. Your manager and colleagues may be stereotyping you as someone who can only do XYZ. Working with them regularly on ABC may help them (and you?) perceive you as the flexible, innovative person you really are, while simultaneously offering you the opportunity to grow into a more authoritative role.

Build a Better Relationship with Your Management

        Try to understand your manager's style, including his little neuroses and idiosyncrasies.  Does he assume people who are five minutes late in the morning lack ambition?  Even if you think that's ridiculous, get to work a bit early.  Does she worry that employees who don't need her help are plotting to take her job?  Make a point to check with her periodically, even if her opinion isn't critical to you.

You may think going the extra mile to humor your boss is taking valuable time you could be using more productively.  But is it?  Any successful careerist will tell you there are two keys to getting ahead: superior work and solid relationships.  One without the other just won't get the job done.

        Ask your manager for an informal performance appraisal at least once a quarter.   Inquire about how he evaluates your work versus appraisal standards, invite positive feedback and tips on how you might improve, highlight your successes, and brainstorm a plan of action for new and ongoing projects.

Soliciting your manager's input will keep him informed about your progress and encourage him to invest in your future.  It will also save you from embarrassing surprises during your performance appraisal.

Do everything politically expedient to build a relationship with your manager's boss, because he has the real power in determining your promotions, raises, transfers, etc.  Speak to him on a regular basis, even if it's small talk in the elevator.  Send him copies of your atta-boy letters from clients or colleagues.  Make sure he knows who deserves the credit for your ideas and reports.  Use him as a mentor, if possible.  Just don't leave your boss out of the loop in the process.

 Career Dimensions ● 214-208-1706 ●

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