Last week, as part of our "Ten Things" series, we discussed knowing yourself, including your strengths and saboteurs, to lay the foundation for charting your personal and professional trajectories. If you haven't had an opportunity to read that blog, check it out here. But, what if you've done the internal work identifying those strengths and learning to control those saboteurs with sage, yet still you seem to be going nowhere fast?
As the saying goes, “know your audience.” My Mom used to always advise me, “It’s not complicated if you understand the rules of the game.” We all must navigate our environment- whether personal relationships, professional relationships, or all things in between.
Your Work Environment
Well, my friend, it's time that you look around at your environment–the corporate culture. Ask yourself these questions:
- How is good work regarded in my organization?
- Are diversity, equity, and inclusion really valued, or are they just buzz words?
- What are the key goals at the top of the house, and do those goals trickle down through the organization?
- Is my manager committed to my success? Do we have a development plan that we visit on a regular basis?
- Is my organization layered or flat? Are there foreseeable opportunities to grow outside my department in other parts of the organization?
These are just a few questions that you should consider when navigating your work environment and assessing your internal career path. Understanding your work environment not only influences your personal development goals, but also significantly reduces the frustration you may have with not knowing your internal career path.
Note also, that it's important to understand when taking an external opportunity is the best path for you, given your current career goals. For example, taking an external opportunity to gain more experience may give you future leverage to return to your prior organization in an expanded role or continue your growth trajectory elsewhere. The key is carefully assessing your options against clearly-defined goals, which may even including taking a pay cut or a lesser or different role to prepare you for an even greater role.
Your Personal Environment
Likewise, it's important to periodically assess your personal environment, particularly when you find yourself feeling stifled, unfulfilled, or unhappy. Try these questions on for size:
- Am I giving and giving to everyone and finding that I'm usually, if not always, last on my and everyone else's list?
- Do I tend to be the smartest person in the room?
- Am I always the teacher in the group and rarely the learner?
- Are my relationships (of any and all kinds) reciprocal or one-sided?
- What gets me going everyday, and am I doing enough of whatever "it" is?
It's so important to prioritize yourself at the top of your list. Remember the Pilot's warning? In the event of a sudden drop in air pressure, the oxygen mask will drop…PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST before assisting others. Listen, I get it. I'm a caretaker myself, literally and figuratively. The point here is, if you're pouring out to the point of burnout and never allowing self or others to pour into you, you end up drained, frustrated, and resentful and not really your best self for anyone, including YOU!
So, let's hold each other accountable to take some "me" time. It's perfectly fine to give to others, from my perspective. The deal is to give from your best self and not from a fragmented self.
At the end of the day, when you truly know yourself and your worth, you can leverage that knowledge to assess your personal and professional environment or culture and make a conscious decision of whether that environment/culture matches your self-worth and how you choose to deal with the results of that assessment. Either way, you get to chart and own your trajectory.