It’s Time to Ask

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It’s summer vacation season, and what feels like all my family and friends are planning eventful trips. I stare longingly at their Facebook posts with exotic destinations recently booked and their Insta feeds of sunsets and sandy beaches. You know this feeling – the emotion of wanting something, hoping for it, and at the same time assuming it’s out of your reach. For me, my career next step has always felt like that alluring destination. But which one? And how? Summer is a good time for reflection, and it’s my passion to plan out where I want to be by year’s end.

Most great things – like a new project or a promotion – are worth waiting for, so recognize that advancing must come with a measure of patience. While you wait, seek ways to round out your perspective and stretch yourself. Then speak up to your manager and verbalize both your desire, and how you’d like to approach building what’s next in your career.

Why? According to this McKinsey paper, companies are spending increasing amounts of time looking for their superstar employees, and providing them with the best opportunities and support.

I have a friend who’s been with his company, a co-manufacturer of organic and natural foods, as a Finance Manager for nearly 3 years. About a year ago, he was promoted to Senior Finance Manager, and was allowed to grow his team and responsibility. Earlier this spring a Director-level colleague left, and my friend knew he was more than capable of the position, but shied away from talking to his boss about it, as the job wasn’t even posted.

After some encouragement and whiteboarding, my friend not only asked for the job, but showcased his vision for growing the team in a deck, and was rewarded with many of the structural and organizational developments he’d provisioned.

So how do you get what my friend earned? How do you become one of these rising stars?

First – Do your job and do it well. Challenge yourself. Enough said.

Second – Articulate what you want clearly, with precision.

Third – Ask for the opportunity you want, using the concise language from #2. If your supervisor suggests you’re not ready yet, co-create a plan, built with measureable goals and milestones along the way. Here’s a great how-to.

Not sure yet what should be in your future? Here are some goals you might claim this year that are not focused on a promotion or a new role.

Perhaps what you need at work isn’t the next advancement – it’s sponsorship – an advocate interceding on your behalf, or a collaborator to bounce ideas from. Boldly seek out and build your network with thoughtful people within your organization, and present them with your career goals – and ask for help navigating the company successfully.

My network includes a group my peers from around the world – people I learn from, and also share ideas with in regular cadence. And my client and business associate network is so intentionally groomed over coffees and collaborative meetings that I’ve had a handful of people ask me to help create opportunities and introductions for them company to company.

Ask for help removing roadblocks and corporate clutter that stand in your way. Sometimes you need someone to talk to IT about the laptop renewal policies or advocate with HR for that new hire on your team. Great leaders will help you understand why policies exist today, remove those roadblocks, or help you navigate another route to success.

Ask for flexibility. Maybe a day working remotely, a new desk, or the chance to donate some time to your favorite charity will keep you learning and passionate.

Let this be the season of action – not just aspiration. Take that vacation. And then let’s craft a plan to build your career over the coming months. All you have to do is ask.

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