Put Yourself to Work (What to do when it “isn’t working”)
As published by CPA Canada in CareerVision
So, you’ve been busy, busy, busy; volunteering your time with non-profit organizations, taking on extra work assignments, and helping out with the office social committee. You have enrolled in a professional designation program (completed the first two courses with flying colors!) and thanks to your persistence, have been able to convince your CEO neighbour to meet for mentoring sessions once a month. You are Putting Yourself to Work like a house on fire!
Compare this to your workplace cubicle mate, who doesn’t seem to do much more than the job at hand (who, me, volunteer?) and manages to spend weekends out with friends without a care in the world. The assignments you get are no better than his (and might even be a bit worse at times), despite all of your efforts and the talent you are developing. What’s more, annual performance reviews were last week and your appraisal was nothing out of the ordinary: an awkward meeting with your boss, the clichéd “keep this up and you will be promoted soon”, a handshake, and you’re adjourned. Not exactly what you had in mind, given all the extra work you’ve been doing.
“Isn’t anyone paying attention around here?” you wonder, passing your co-workers on their way out the door for afternoon coffee. You’ve been doing everything you can to expand your skills, show initiative, and position yourself for a more senior position, with no real progress (except for your own). What’s happening here? Times like this are ideal for having a good look at the situation and taking stock. Here’s how.
Put Yourself to Work: What to do when it “isn’t working”
Despite all of your efforts, your lack of progress could be due to a few things:
- Not enough time has passed—although you’ve put your nose to the grindstone for what seems like forever, how long has it been really? The busier you are, sometimes the longer it seems you have been working (in fact, you are accomplishing more, which is a good thing). Step back and determine how long you have been “in development”, and if it’s only been a few months, a bit more patience is required. Putting yourself to work is an investment and is actually a progression to developing a new mindset, so recognize that it might take a year or two to see the progress you desire (remember that it did take you longer than this to complete your university education or professional designation. Although the tactics might be different here, but it still takes time to make tangible progress).
- You might be off-course—sometimes we can get so busy that we don’t take the time to step back and determine if we are focusing on the right things (think of how some tasks just seem to lead to other, more obscure tasks). Ask yourself if you need to make some adjustments to focus on activities that are directly related to where you want to go and, if so, get back on track. If you are having difficulty identifying the key issues, your mentor could be a great resource to provide a more objective viewpoint
- You might not making the impact you think you are—now, this is the time to take a good, hard look in the mirror (which can sometimes be difficult to do). Although you might be working hard, are you really getting the necessary results to demonstrate that you are mastering the task at hand? Sometimes, we take on so many tasks that we don’t have the necessary time and energy to truly excel. Remember, “quality” is more important than “quantity”, and you’re better to establish the reputation of excelling at whatever you do, as opposed to taking on many things with less than stellar results.
- You might not be in the right environment— the previous three areas have given you the opportunity to have a good look at yourself and your progress. This area requires you to look around at your workplace and ask the question if it is one that is receptive to achievements such as volunteerism and professional development. Although it might be difficult to believe, some workplaces don’t fully appreciate the benefits of these enrichments. Look at the achievements of the leaders in your workplace to determine if they are actively involved in these areas and to get a sense of their attitudes in this regard; it just might be that you’ve progressed to a point where you should consider your options. Should you decide to do so, be sure to evaluate any potential employers in terms of the value they assign to areas like professional development, volunteerism, and mentorship.
Whatever your analysis reveals, recognize this: you have made achievements that are an investment in yourself and this store of value will follow you wherever you go. That’s the whole point of putting yourself to work.
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