Sometimes You Have to Move On to Move UpSome companies are excellent at recognizing and promoting internal talent. But sometimes, we work hard for an opportunity to come along that doesn’t. Or maybe we’re promised a promotion, but it keeps being “rejected by upper management.” Navigating a career can be daunting. We get attached to coworkers, develop a sense of loyalty, or get distracted by the next big project. Too often, emotions muddle the reality of our current position or even the position we’re thinking of taking. As Andy put it, “We get distracted by a shiny object and have to step back and ask if that one shiny object offsets any red flags. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.” Objectivity is not something humans excel at. As a result, we tend to distort the truth because our perception of reality is subjective. That’s why it’s so much easier for us to look back on a job and see it for what it was than it is to honestly evaluate both the job and our strengths and weaknesses while we were in that position. Andy was extremely transparent with us on our podcast and walked us through her career. She recognized when a company’s direction wasn’t aligned with her vision of where she wanted to be eventually, and she moved on. She wanted to excel as both a mother and a professional, and she needed the right environment to do that. “After five years at my previous company and then less than a year at the next company, I realized that in order to right-size my income and put me where I should have been in the market, I had to change companies again. That was what I had to do to get me to the right place. And fortunately, those two changes ultimately put me at a baseline to launch the rest of my career.” But that didn’t mean making those career moves was easy on Andy. “I’m not going to lie after I moved to a new job, that first day I went in and cried in the bathroom like a baby. Those decisions are so hard, but it was the right decision. It was a wrong, hard, awful feeling thing. It didn’t feel good, but it was the right decision.”
Don’t Ignore Red FlagsIt’s easy to get distracted by kegerators, free snacks, razor scooters, and ping pong, but work perks don’t define a company’s culture. Free lunches may even signal that the company is trying to compensate for demanding long hours. A company’s mission and written values don’t necessarily reflect the actions of leadership, which lead to a positive or negative work environment. “Company culture is one of those things that everybody talks about, but it’s hard to detect because it isn’t always tangible. Company culture is what happens either because you are mindfully making choices about how you will engage with your workforce or because you’re failing to make those decisions. Leadership is either making decisions that reinforce a positive culture or a negative culture. “If we anticipate everyone is at their desk 10 hours a day, that’s reinforcing a negative culture. If we give you the ability to go run to a doctor’s appointment or take someone in the family to a doctor’s appointment—we trust you to get your work done whenever it’s convenient—that’s positive, right? Flexibility or a lack of flexibility. It’s the intangible things around company culture that matter.” The same logic applies to a boss. In fact, when I asked Andy what to look for in a boss, she said, “Someone who actually cares.” She’s not wrong. “It boils down to empathy. EQ as a leadership talent is just starting to be recognized, understood, and valued. That was not always the case. What was the factoid about the number of psychopaths in CEO positions?” A 2016 study found that 21% of corporate executives had psychopathic tendencies. “Rewarding humanness and making it apparent you value authenticity throughout the interview process is part of what makes a good boss. A thing I strive toward in my management of people is not being a one-size-fits-none boss. The way that I manage one individual may have some similarities to the way that I manage another, but they’re going to be different because those individuals need different things. “I can’t just have one management style. It’s EQ first. I need to understand if one person needs someone who is going to collaborate with them. Or does this person need someone who’s going to lead them? Maybe this person just needs me to get out of their way and let them do their job. Each person is different in what they need. “I think what makes a good boss is someone who understands that you’re a human and wants you to be a human because that humanity brings something to your work. You should be encouraged to do what you need to do to get the job done and given the space and latitude you need to do that work.” Ultimately, it comes down to understanding what you want out of your career and your life outside of your career. “It’s similar to any relationship, whether that’s a friendship, dating, or marriage. Do you feel like yourself in the interview? If you feel like you have to pretend to be someone else or you don’t like the person that you are as you’re going through an interview process, that’s a big red flag.” “As you’re interviewing you, we all have a gut instinct that will say, ‘I don’t know about this.’ You have to listen to it. If you have something that looks too good to be true, take a step back from it. If that’s the one thing that’s incentivizing you to take the job and all the rest is only okay, allow yourself to be honest about this shiny thing. Is it worth taking the position?”
Misplaced Loyalty Slows CareersIf there is one thing I wished I learned earlier in my career, it’s that the only person responsible for looking out for your career is you. It’s easy to develop a sense of loyalty to a company for the wrong reasons. Feeling gratitude that a company took a chance on you straight out of college is normal. But if your momentum stalls, don’t turn down a good opportunity because of that gratitude. “Even if you desperately needed a job and they finally gave you an offer, that is what they do as a company. They employ people. You work for them so that they can sell stuff. “I think it’s really easy to slip into this idea of owing your company for their graciousness of employing you. You can start to identify as a person who works there. We hear about Facebookies or Googlites or whatever they call themselves. Identify yourself in the world as an individual, not as part of a collective. “I’ve learned that if my identity has anything to do with where I work or what I do as a career, then I’m doing myself a disservice. Yes, I am a mops professional. But that’s not who I am at the end of the day. “I think that we often tend to identify ourselves with our company, and that turns into loyalty or feeling beholden to. The second you realize that the company that you’ve been with for X number of years is paying you 20, 30, 40, 50% under market for what you should be making in that role, you have to come first. You have to make the decisions first and foremost based on what’s best for you.”
For more on climbing the ladder while navigating the struggles of balancing career and family, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.