I have had several mentors and sponsors who have guided and advocated for me throughout my career. For this, I am very grateful. There is no way I would have advanced in my career without the help of many. However, at times, I also fell into the trap of relying on others for my career advancement and lost a sense of self-accountability in terms of proactively planning for my future, learning new skills, and promoting myself along the way. Somehow, because I had gotten help from my mentors/sponsors, I took for granted that they may not always be able to help me all the time. In some cases, I assumed they knew the direction and opportunities I wanted but as I later found out, they had no clue. I came to realize even when they did want to provide opportunities for me within the organization, there are other factors in play that prevented them from doing so. Organizational politics, personalities, and my career interests not aligning with organizational priorities are just some factors that prevented me from moving on to areas I wanted to progress into. I can recall key moments in my career when I was disappointed when opportunities came and passed me by and I unfairly expected others to come and advocate for me. I fell into the victim mentality, blaming others for my missed opportunities. Gradually, I came to the realization that I may just be relying on others too much, failing to take ownership of my career development. This shift in attitude, taking personal accountability, has become more empowering and has provided me with a sense of control when it comes to my career.
One constant message I share with others with regards to career development is that they have to “own their career”. One should not have to wait for others to learn new skills and knowledge. I firmly believe professional development is a personal choice and a commitment. One should create professional networks and develop relationships before they are needed.
It is conference season in student affairs and one of the topics discussed during this time is how to network online and at the conferences. I personally make the effort to provide opportunities for others to connect via introductions and I also take it upon myself to make the first step. I tweeted this a few days ago as part of a conversation about this topic:
My point about the tweet above is that, if we rely on others to help us out, that help may never come. We must take it upon ourselves to make the first move or we end up watching others while we sit on the sideline. Do you want that opportunity? Prepare yourself then take steps for your interests, skills, and accomplishments to be known. I grew up in a household and a culture that discourage talking about ourselves and our accomplishments. But, I realized at some point in my career, this was not always helpful. There’s a fine line between self-promotion for the sake of ego and advocating for ourselves because we need to. But, there are times when we do have to talk about ourselves or no one else will. Others will interpret this several ways based on their perspectives of us, some positive and some negative, even with our best intention.
I sometimes hear others complain about their jobs feeling as if they have no their choices but to stay where they are. Frankly, I think there are always choices, some choices harder than other. Does it take time and effort to make a change? Absolutely! I do believe life is too short to be in a job without joy and satisfaction. When one’s not happy at work, it does impact our personal lives and the folks we care about.
Ultimately, we have to be accountable for our own career development and be our biggest cheerleader.