It can be hard enough getting your foot in the door of your dream job, or any job for that matter. Moreover, it can be even harder to come to terms with the fact that landing the job is only the first of several steps to becoming a valuable contributor to the workplace, or even the field in general.
There are plenty of things that can reinforce this feeling of helplessness – the inevitable workplace hierarchy for example, although expected, can be a tough thing to work around especially in corporate environments. It’s difficult to set yourself apart when you feel like you are just another face in a sea of workers, and even more so when the competition for reward, promotion or even simple recognition, is fierce.
Realising that there are factors that are simply out of your control can be jarring to a fresh face trying to make their mark on the corporate world. It’s no secret that an individual’s gender, sexual orientation, religion and/or ethnicity can make it markedly tougher for them to progress at the rate of their peers. To top this off, arguably trivial factors such as whether or not the individual has children (or is with child), their choice of clothing, their ability to complete frequent overtime etc. can make it seem impossible to gain the upper hand over your peers.
Steep competition and office politics can lead to you lose sight of your potential and the many valuable skills you can bring to the table. It’s safe to say that everybody wants their potential to be realised, and so it’s important that you know how to do it.
Here are some ways to ensure you don’t fall victim to the mindset of others, and guarantee that your voice is always heard:
- Focus on your strengths
Understanding your strengths and being comfortable with them means that you will become more comfortable stepping up and taking responsibility for your work. Knowing that YOU are capable is the first step to OTHERS recognising that you are capable.
For example, do you consider yourself to be a natural leader, but find yourself reduced to coffee making and photo copying? Leaders come in many shapes and sizes, and being comfortable with that fact and embracing your potential to lead in even minor ways, whether it is noticed or not, will inevitably allow your confidence in your work to soar. Being proud of your work and sure of your capabilities is crucial – It’s no use putting in the hard work if you’re not going to ensure that people recognise your contribution, especially if you’re wanting to stand out!
- Ask questions
These questions can range from simple clarifications over e-mail to a request for detailed feedback. Don’t fall victim to the notion that asking questions equates to cluelessness. Those around you may feel that you asking questions is a waste of their time, but it’s definitely not a waste of yours. People can also be afraid to do so because questioning something draws attention to it – but that’s exactly what you want!
Asking questions means that you are literally ‘speaking up’ in your workplace – people have no choice but to take notice of you. Asking questions and asserting yourself into discourse is an extremely valuable tool in networking and building a repertoire with your fellow employees and superiors. Asserting yourself and speaking up shows that you mean business. People are more likely to want to collaborate with you as they view you as thorough, diligent and responsible – meaning you are more likely to be chosen to work on projects above your fellow co-workers.
- Don’t lose sight of your goals
It’s difficult not to get caught up in the idea of trying to have it all, and always worrying that those around you are doing more, saying more, having more and are destined for more. Focusing too much on how well others are doing compared to yourself almost guarantees that you’ll have trouble succeeding. Making clear, achievable goals and keeping your eye on them will ensure that all your work, focus, time and energy goes towards accomplishing them instead of your focus becoming wrapped up in the progression of your co-workers professional lives. This drive will show in your work and how you carry yourself, and maintaining it will put you in a better position to be able to tackle whatever is thrown at you and ultimately, allow you to feel comfortable with taking on more.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
Too many people out there are ‘yes’ men. ‘No’ is often seen as negative and closing you off from opportunities. However, saying no (respectfully) can be the first step to ensuring the RIGHT opportunities come your way, and that you have both the time and mental energy to tackle them. We often feel that in order to be seen as capable we must always take on everything that is handed to us, despite whether it is pushing us in the right direction.
However, this actually ends up have the opposite effect – you are less likely to be taken seriously and it’s easy to fade into the background. Unrelenting agreeability is not helpful when your mission is to set yourself apart. Because saying ‘no’ is so rare, people will take notice. Being able to prioritise and understand which opportunities are most valuable to you will ensure you are set up for success in all aspects of your life.
- Understand that there are factors you cannot control and factors that you can
This last tip is a short one but it is vital. Embracing the nature of how the world – or in this case the workplace – works will eliminate the feeling of helplessness and the idea that everything is working against you. Knowing what you can control and what you can’t is extremely important and you will find the path ahead is much clearer and your goals a lot more visible once you’ve embraced that you can’t control everything. Combatting this feeling of helplessness is crucial, everyone feels it, and so by simply rising above it, you gain the upper hand. It’s worth a shot!