I see you, hardworking, ambitious professional. I see you banging your head against your desk because you’re working your tail off, and no one seems to notice.
Your boss barely realizes what you do, your colleagues are unreliable, and that promotion you’re angling for seems like it’s light-years away.
So you grit your teeth and keep at it: working harder, doing more, being better, all in an effort to get some freaking results.
You can stop that right now. PLEASE.
Because working harder (when you’re already doing your best) and changing who you are is NOT the solution to getting what you want at work. When you’re a high-achieving professional, the solution isn’t about you at all.
It’s about your ecosystem.
Old Habits Die Hard
We think of college and university as professional training, but the truth is… college teaches a mindset that does NOT apply to the professional world.
When you’re in college, success is all about natural talent and how much work you put in. It’s not wholly objective — bias exists in schools — but generally speaking your success is dependent on you and your efforts. Even if you don’t love your school, it’s not always an option to switch to a different one. So you do the best you can in your environment, and if you study harder and practice more, you’ll get an A and move up to the next class.
The professional world is not like that. And after spending 16+ years in school, where you learned that working hard leads to acknowledgement and advancement… it’s bewildering.
And all you know to do — all you’ve been taught — is to work harder and be better to thrive as best you can in your environment. So you try to figure out what they want, and chameleon yourself to match. Maybe then my boss will appreciate me and I’ll get that promotion.
A Cactus Doesn’t Thrive in a Jungle
The problem is…changing yourself to get what you want doesn’t work. It’s backwards, it doesn’t make sense, and it crushes your morale and sometimes, it can feel like it’s crushing your soul.
We don’t tell plants that they should change their color to be watered or get the sunlight they need, right? Of course not! Because we know that different plants thrive in some ecosystems and don’t thrive in others.
One of the biggest myths that career coaches LOVE to tell people is that you need to change who you are to succeed. NO YOU DO NOT. What you need is to be in an environment that acknowledges you and gives you a pathway to advance. Success isn’t only about your efforts, it’s about putting you in an ecosystem that will support you to flourish.
So if you’re a beautiful cactus flower, you’d better go find yourself a desert ecosystem. If you’re a rose, find yourself the right conditions to thrive. Whatever it is, part of the equation is finding the right ecosystem for you.
What You Need at Work: 5 Signs
As you continue in your career, you’ll get more and more data points about which ecosystems work for you, and which ecosystem factors are counterproductive to your professional happiness and growth.
If you aren’t thriving, growing, learning or being challenged in your current ecosystem, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you. It’s because the ecosystem you’re in isn’t the right one FOR you. Here are 5 signs to pay attention to as you figure out what your ideal ecosystem looks like:
- What energizes you?
- What’s your collaboration style — are you a lone wolf or a team player?
- Do you like structure, with clear frameworks and guidelines about what it takes for people to move up or around? Or do you prefer variety and change?
- How do you want to advance in your career and be promoted?
- Do you care about your company and the work you do?
Let’s break this down further:
- Energy: Are you being challenged in a way that energizes you and supports your interests? Do you like your relationships with your boss and colleagues?
- Work style: Are you competitive, or more of a collaborative team player? Some organizations encourage rigorous (sometimes even cutthroat) competition, while others place an emphasis on collaboration among and across teams.
- Structure: How structured or adaptable would you like your job and responsibilities to be? Some organizations have structured requirements for each role, and employees are expected to stay in their lane. Others (often startups and high-growth companies) welcome professionals who want to roll up their sleeves and learn on the job (which can mean your responsibilities grow quickly), but might not have the resources or structure to offer you formal training.
- Path to promotion: High-structure companies often have specific guidelines for what it takes for people to move up, and changing functions entirely is rare. Many of these companies incorporate (formally or informally) a “time-served” approach to promotion, where people who have been there longer are favored for promotion. On the other hand, adaptable organizations often ask employees to step outside their job responsibilities and take on extra projects. The path to promotion is less clearly defined, but adaptable companies have a track-record of promoting internally and allowing for on-the-job training (and the mistakes that may come with it).
- Care: Do you genuinely care about the mission of your company? Do you care about your work? Do you ever daydream about what it would be like to do the same job, but in a company with a mission you can actually get behind?
Without an ecosystem that aligns with your passions and supports you to thrive on a daily basis, getting what you want will require 2x as much time, 4x as much effort, and endless frustration. It drains your energy and leaves you feeling stuck in an environment that is the wrong fit for you.
This is How You Get Unstuck and Find What You Want at Work
You deserve to thrive in your ecosystem, not just survive.
When you find the right work ecosystem for you, you won’t have to fight for opportunities and acknowledgement. You won’t wonder, is there something wrong with me? And you will be astonished by how your career growth flows.
And right now, you might love the company you work for, even if you have a terrible boss. Or you might love your boss, but wish you had a different role.
You’ll know exactly what to tweak for your ideal ecosystem with my How to Get What You Want at Work tool for talented professionals.
This guide focuses on the 3 Keys for Exceptional Career Growth that you need in your ideal ecosystem. If you’ve thought you need to do more, be more, or somehow you missed the memo on the way you need to ask… think again. You can create an ecosystem that ENABLES you to get what you want – often without even asking.
Many professionals stay stuck in jobs with lousy bosses, frustrating coworkers and stunted growth potential because, well, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right? Wrong! Even in times of economic uncertainty there are opportunities for high-achieving, skilled professionals across industries, and there is no reason you should stay trapped in a job that stifles you. After all, this is about your whole life, not just your job.
Click the below for instant access to How to Get What You Want at Work, and take the first step closer to your dream career.