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Find Meaning in your Role While Waiting for a Promotion – Part I

Finding meaning in our day-to-day roles can sometimes be challenging and overlooked. At times, we don’t realize why we are unhappy in our job and how to find more meaning in what we do.

We may blame it on our manager, the organization, or others on our team. However, taking time for self-evaluation or self-reflection on what truly makes us happy in our role is an important first step.

Being promoted is great but what happens if you don't get the promotion you wanted?

Are you taking the right steps to ensure you are not overlooked for the next promotion?

How can you stay motivated when you don’t get promoted right away?

In this first series, getting more meaning out of your work, I share two simple but powerful tips that get overlooked.

Find An Organization That Shares your Values

It just wouldn’t be right to start and not recommend that you find an organization that resonates with you in some way or another.

I saw a recent LinkedIn post mentioning something along the lines of:

“If you are an accountant working for google, you’re in tech. If you are a customer service representative working for Apple, you’re in tech”.

What I got from this was that if you love technology and want to be in tech it doesn’t matter if you are not an IT professional.

You got to start somewhere and find a company that shares your values and what you are passionate about and it doesn’t always have to be industry-related.

The affiliation makes you feel part of something greater and more meaningful.

In the end, we are all after meaningful work. It is probably one of the most important aspects of job satisfaction for most people.

Also, it’s important to do your research and find an organization that has a history of growth and promoting its employees.

If growth is important for you, I suggest targeting an organization that is hierarchical vs flat as generally speaking, they seem to present more variety of roles and/or specialization. These tend to be the larger organizations.

How many of you have been in a company where it felt like your only two options were the current role you're in or managing people in your current role?

What if you don’t want to be a people manager but still want to advance your career? Is that possible?

Maybe you do want to lead people but you are in a small to mid-size company and you don’t have any people management experience.

What do you do?

Chances are they may not want to take the risk to train you especially if the competition is widely available.

Sounds familiar?

Not every small to mid-size company means limited opportunities or vice-versa, the key is finding an organization where there is a clear natural progression from the role you first enter.

That is crucial if growth is important to you. Do your research and ask questions before and during the interview!

‘What is the natural progression from this role’?

‘How have past employees evolved beyond this role’?

Find multiple sources!

This is especially true if you are an early to mid-careerist and still trying to figure out your ideal career path.

Being selective in the companies I chose to work for is something I overlooked earlier on in my career and I see many making the same mistake.

It doesn’t mean you should decline every position that doesn’t offer a clear natural progression.

Sometimes the experience you can gain from a role can lead you to a better position in another company in the near future.

However, at the very least this will help you make a more educated decision when you are choosing which company to work for.

Knowing the natural career path beyond the role you apply for is just one way to ensure your best work is ahead of you.

Find the major criteria for you, whether it’s growth or a company that is active in the community, whatever it is, hone in on it.

Again, it’s that feeling of affiliation and being part of something meaningful to you.

Believe it or not, if your values align well with the company you work for you will put more effort into your day-to-day and stay motivated and engaged much longer which are the basic recipes for advancing in your career.

Don’t overlook this aspect and choose wisely!

Have Meaningful Conversations with your Manager

As you can imagine your manager plays a huge role in your career development and the reputation you hold in that company.

While your manager doesn’t have to be your best friend, it’s important to develop a solid professional relationship with them from the jump.

Your priority should be how you can make your manager’s life easier and master your role.

However, it’s important to communicate your long-term career goals as well, especially if growth is important to you.

A great way to do this is to set the tone from the beginning in your 1 on 1 session with your manager.

While there are going to be many times where you discuss your day to day, business as usual activities, especially if you are in a new role, it’s also a good idea to ask your people leader if you can reserve a portion of the meeting to discuss career development opportunities.

These opportunities don’t have to be big changes such as you leaving for another role but they should start with small milestones such as a skill that you are working on.

With that in mind and communicated, your manager can help you either build or showcase your abilities by exposing you to a project as an example.

This is a great way to build your reputation and competencies, especially if you identify a gap in your experience that might be important to acquire a new promotion in the near future.

It also shows your manager that you are taking initiative on additional projects which helps the team and ultimately can make your manager’s life easier.

That’s why it’s so important to start identifying and working on these competencies early because if you wait until the new role becomes available it’s already too late.

Also, you may not be aware of the necessary experience that you are lacking that may halt a promotion so going through the process of identifying the gaps will be crucial to your development and you’ll learn a lot about yourself through these extra engagements.

Take the time to address this in your one-on-ones versus talking about your weekend and what you had for lunch.

There is always time for small talk and building a rapport but the point is to not make it a habit in every meeting in order to “kill time”.

I have personally been guilty of this.

If you don't have regular one-on-one meetings with your manager ask if you can set bi-weekly or monthly re-occurring sessions.

Don't wait and rely on your annual review meeting.

In your one-on-ones, choose topics that are meaningful to your career while keeping the mindset of what’s in it for your manager?

How can you make their life easier in the process?

It has to be a win-win!

So many times, we wait for the perfect position to come up and apply only to realize that the competition is in a better position because we didn’t do the research, acquired the skills, and the necessary preparation before the role became available.

To quote Will Smith, “if you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready!”

Again, do your work early and have more meaningful conversations with your manager.


What can I do to make your work easier to manage?

I enjoy this type of work and putting this together could help the team to: (Insert what the team or manager will gain from it).

Are there any projects I can get involved with that will help build these skills? (Be specific on which skill)

How would you feel about that?

What areas or skills do you feel I should get more exposure on to develop in...? (Plug-in whatever your short- or long-term goal is)

Notice two things here. First, I’m bringing ideas versus asking the manager “what should I do to get this?”

It’s a partnership and a win for the team and the manager.

Second, I am not demanding anything. I’m suggesting areas of interest and asking for guidance.

All good leaders are happy if they can have an impact on your success from the ground up. It's ok to stroke their ego a little.

By asking for guidance in this way, you're giving them an opportunity to do that, something they can brag about on their resume or interview when you become a success story.

Again, a win-win.

It’s also important to point out that you have to be patient, don’t always expect an answer right away.

Invite your manager to take it away and come back in the next meetings to discuss these potential projects or ideas.

It might take weeks before a new relevant project becomes available but keep it on your manager’s radar when you meet with them as early as possible.

Remember, this isn’t an overnight process, recall that you are preparing for the future so it’s imperative that you start early.

Your manager may suggest several things including a course, a stretch assignment within the team, job shadowing with a seasoned person on the team or outside the team.

Make those suggestions if it doesn’t come up.

This applies a healthy pressure on your manager and challenges them as a people leader but in a positive way as long as you stay humble, professional, and patient.

Also, it will tell you a lot about their leadership style.

A good manager doesn’t want to lose their employees but is well aware that the best ones are those who care about their performance and growth opportunities.

They also understand that if their employees grow, they grow and that has a positive trickle-down effect on the entire team.

My Two Cents

As you navigate through your career you will start to recognize certain aspects that unlock real job satisfaction and the sooner you know, the better you can manage your career, be happier, and do impactful work.

Discussed in this blog is the first part of the ‘finding meaning in your work' series whether it's the new promotion you always wanted or doing more impactful things at work.

I share my first two suggestions.

First, find an organization that aligns with your values and be intentional with your decision by shortlisting the ideal companies that resonate with you most.

I share tips on what to look for in a company and the right questions to ask depending on what you value most.

The second overlooked aspect is leveraging your manager by having more meaningful conversations with your leader. Do it often!

This is so underrated, a lot of times I find that we put the onus on our managers to tell us what to do or where to take the conversation in our meetings.

Your manager is here to guide not build your career for you so it’s so important to take ownership and go beyond the business-as-usual topics in your sessions.

I discuss the importance and strategies to get more out of your one-on-ones.

The first two steps shared in this series will ensure the right building blocks are constructed from the get-go which will significantly increase your chances of being promoted while finding meaning through your journey.

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