I’ve been surrounded a lot lately by people that are frustrated with their careers. Not in a bad sense, but in the sense that they’ve got a lot to bring to the table (and not a deluded, skewed version, but they’re actually right) and they feel as though they’re getting passed over or they’re not getting recognized appropriately.
Despite the fact I’ve only been in a career for four years, I can relate. It’s frustrating to feel like you’ve got something you can contribute, but nobody looks at you because you haven’t “made it” yet. It’s only been in the last year that I really feel like leadership is looking at me and giving me some time of day. I understand the frustration. I also feel as though sometimes (and I mean this in the nicest way possible), we need a reality check.
There’s this idea out there that if you’re talented, you should shoot to the top immediately. Anymore people want to work 20 hours a week, but get paid for 40. They want gourmet lunches, etc. I don’t hate any of these ideas (you win me with food hands down every single time), but there’s work that needs to be done. Things don’t happen overnight and the worst thing you can do for yourself is get frustrated and not see your goals through because they’re not happening on your timeline. I’ve had to really think about this myself as well.
Some of the best advice that was given to me as a new leader is to avoid being stifled in the seat you’re in. As you move further up in a company, there are less chairs. While you’re waiting for your turn at the table, that doesn’t mean you have to sit on your hands, be bored, feel “over it.” You have an opportunity to focus on multiple areas. Say you want to learn about the marketing department. What’s stopping you from reaching out to someone in marketing and doing a deeper dive over six months to learn more? What does that hurt if you’re able to juggle both your current job and growth and development in another area? People set themselves up for failure when they gain depth in a position, but become complacent and just move through day to day motions. It’s worth noting that this only applies if you’re looking to moving up. If you’re happy where you’re at, you do you and never feel ashamed for it.
Lack of depth and breadth of knowledge eventually catches up to you, so even though I sit here wanting to be the CEO by 30, I know that’s 1) unrealistic and 2) would be a considerable learning curve and honestly, I wouldn’t be the best. You don’t have to know every single technical thing for the roles you oversee, but you need to know enough to sit at the table and address problems and be able to identify them. That’s where depth of knowledge and breadth of experience comes into play in a much larger way.
Everything takes work. Everything takes time. Some people move slower and some people move rapidly. None are without their own quandaries. At the end of the day, it’s not worth being frustrated about. If you’re working and working hard, continuing to develop and consistently reevaluating your plan of attack, whatever decision you’ll make will be informed and grounded in fact. It’s best to avoid falling into the trap that you’re owed something or that you’re being overlooked (unless you really are) and put your time in, all while planning an attack to be the best candidate when the higher position does open up.