Five Ways to Go From Survive to Thrive at Work
If you work for a large organization, chances are you’ve had days when you felt insignificant. In my experience as a leadership coach, I’ve helped many employees who had lost sight of how they fit into the larger whole and had slipped into survival mode. But by taking a few steps to empower themselves and reshape their careers, they went from merely surviving to thriving.
And you can too. Here’s how.
Take the Lead in Shaping Your Career
No one cares as much as you do about your career and life satisfaction.
Although many large organizations have helpful support structures, like training courses for learning new skills and human resources specialists offering career advice, it’s often up to employees to understand and tap into these resources. So take time to explore opportunities and set up a plan for your own development.
Also consider getting some outside help. Potential resources include life coaches, career centers at colleges and universities and freelance career coaches. These professionals can help you discover your strengths and plan for a more satisfactory future, which is especially useful if you’re unsure whether your current job is the best fit.
Whatever you do, develop a vision and goals for your career path. A vision for the future you desire will be a strong driving force for your development and growth, and goals will help you stay on track.
With the help of your supervisor or human resources department, identify one or more leaders you admire in your organization and explore the possibility of learning from them.
Start by requesting a meeting and, if you get it, see how it goes. One conversation may be enough to give you insights into the organization and advice on how to make progress with your career goals. And sometimes that will be just what you were looking for.
If your initial meeting goes well and you want to learn more, explore options such as regularly scheduled meetings or a shadowing situation where you accompany the leader in meetings and other activities. You might consider establishing an ongoing mentorship.
Approach finding and learning from a mentor with curiosity. Be open to the wisdom of the person you choose, and be sure to express gratitude for the time and attention you receive.
Volunteer for Special Projects
You probably have plenty of work to do, but stepping outside of your day-to-day duties to contribute to your organization can help you expand your horizons and could spark ideas that will enhance your career goals.
Look for ways you can help out. Are there staff meetings where problem-solving is done or new ideas discussed? Does your supervisor need assistance with a project or specific tasks? Raise your hand when you see an opportunity to get involved in projects that could help the department.
If opportunities aren’t obvious, suggest a special project. Can you help improve processes, customer service or internal communications, for example? Those who are closest to the work are often the ones in a position to identify needed changes.
If you reject the all-too-common attitude of “it’s not in my job description,” you’ll gain the advantage of involvement at a higher level as well as be seen as someone who cares about changing things for the better.
Try Cross-Functional Peer Networking
Large organizations have their advantages, and one of them is a variety of departments with different specializations. Attend organization-wide functions or training courses where you can get to know people in other departments, and take the opportunity to investigate how you might support each other.
When you’re discussing work issues with people in other departments, do some informal networking — reach out to see if there would be mutual benefit to talking over a cup of coffee. You may be surprised to find out about common issues or problems you’re facing. You may also learn about positions that appeal to you more than your current job.
Keep your eyes open and watch for cross-functional team opportunities. Consider peers in other departments to be your internal customers, and be open to a mutually beneficial relationship for problem solving and learning about functions outside your normal departmental boundaries.
Take Advantage of Continuing Education
Investigate educational opportunities, such as continuing education at your local college or university. For example, UW Professional & Continuing Education has a wide variety of courses and certificate programs with potential to enhance your career or prepare you for something more compatible with your goals.
Also consider giving and receiving training within your organization. Learning keeps people engaged in life. Volunteering to give training about a topic of interest to your co-workers can be a rewarding experience and can help you develop an even greater expertise.
If you want to thrive in your organization, go beyond mere survival. Contributing above and beyond the boundaries of your job description will help you add value both to the organization and your overall career journey — and you’ll likely find yourself feeling more significant and more engaged in your life and your work.
Posted: March 25, 2016
By: Bonnie Hovel, UNIVERSITY of WASHINGTON.