Often we take a job as a stepping stone to where we want to go. This is not a bad thing, just make sure you spin it correctly during your interview. It is actually a positive thing, because it means you are headed in the right direction. I condone you for that. But I have to ask…when you are in that job that’s not ideal, the one “just for now,” are you neglecting the opportunities right in front of you?
I strongly support looking ahead to bigger and better things, networking to see what’s out there, learning about what you truly enjoy and want out of your career and trying to pursue this. But I want to send a flashing warning signal to anyone who does this but simultaneously treats their current job as something they can just coast through and ignore. Let me try to convince you why this is such a red flag.
(I will call your current role/area of work as Area A/Role A and the ideal role/area of work as Area B/Role B).
1. First and potentially the most important:
what are you going to talk about when you finally do land an interview for said “dream job”?
a. You need the meat to talk about how you improved your current role, how you stood out, how you went above and beyond and made an impact.
b. Your performance in your current role is the best insight for that next manager to assess whether you will be a positive addition to their team, and also to show them that you can handle these new, more important responsibilities you are likely seeking.
2. What will your current managers say when potential new managers come to ask you about your performance?
3. What will they see when they look at your current performance reviews?
a. Besides what you tell them and what your current managers tell the new team, your performance reviews may be looked at. The only control you have on what is reflected in such a review is your work ethic, ideas, devotion, and comprehensive work presence that you portray every day as it leads up to these reviews.
4. Will your current manager leverage their network for you to help you try to get to Role B? (did you serve their team well, do they feel you represent them well and will be successful in Role B?)
5. Why not try to put yourself in a position to gain potential opportunities where you are now that will prove to new managers your esteemed status? (does your team/firm offer travel opportunities, short term projects at a client’s firm that may interest you, etc.?)
6. As you coast through role A, you are virtually worsening your chances of ever gaining Role B.
7. As you coast through role A, you are giving up on yourself, wasting yours and others’ time, wasting a precious opportunity to learn, grow, and accomplish new skills and tasks.
8. There are functional skills but also soft skills. EVERY job requires interpersonal skills. I would venture to say that no one is perfect in this area. You WILL be asked about your strengths and weaknesses for Role B. What are you going to say? How did you try and improve those weaknesses?
9. I BEG to differ if you tell me there is no opportunity within your current job that relates to what you want to do. This is for two reasons:
a. If Role A and Role B are completely separate in scope, there are still transferrable skills you can focus on and gain expertise in where you are (client service, marketing, writing, communication, people management, presentation skills, conflict resolution, etc.)
b. If Role A and Role B are similar in scope, you can and should voice to your manager that you are interested in learning more about Area B. Find out a project that is part of the team/division’s goals/strategy at current, or something on your manager’s plate and offer to help with it. You could even do research if the team/firm is not yet exploring Area B and introduce the benefit of it. Rarely would a manager refuse your offer to help the team, assist with their own workload and help them deliver their goals. This initiative will also inevitably boost that performance review and your manager’s view of you even further.
10. Then there are those of us who are not even sure what their ideal Role B is, what “Area B” they should be considering or exploring. This is even more of a reason not to ignore your current role. Personally, I was empowered in my role to have the room and space to create new and different programs. By doing this, later on I was able to look back and reflect on what it was that I enjoyed doing, what gaps I saw that others didn’t, in order to figure out what area of work I should be exploring next.
Your ability to tie in what you want to do in your existing day job and the ability to gain that ideal Role B is a web that is all connected. Separating the two is simply an excuse and a justification to yourself that you can be lazy at work.
Yes, there are other ways to gain knowledge and experience in this ideal Area B outside of your current day job, such as networking, researching, and even trying to start to do this exact work somehow via projects or practice. But why not try to integrate this into your day to day tasks? Once you start to do what you’re interested in, show you’re successful at it, and show how it can benefit your current team/firm, there is a great chance you will be recognized for this. You may then receive more and more responsibility to do this very thing in your current role, which is likely the best possible scenario. Or, if/when you get an interview for Role B, the interviewer will likely be seeking to understand how you have already done what this new job requires. This, my friends, defines the evolution that creates a career path. But it will only occur if you have the effort and intention to grow closer towards your goals, at which point you can finally step from stone A to B.