If You Feel Like You’re Stuck in Your Career, There’s One Thing You Need To Change

It’s not your actions, behavior or appearance that you need to change to get ahead

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

When I was a management consultant, I was probably the worst consultant there was. I had no idea what I was doing. Clients would ask me questions and I would shrug and look to my manager. I messed up presentations and deliverables. I was literally this close (fingers close together) to getting fired.

But after a few years of making mistakes, I turned things around. I owned my work. I delivered high-quality deliverables and created a strong personal brand. Clients loved me. Managers wanted to work with me.

What changed?

Asking myself the tough questions

I remember the inflection point well. Another year had passed and an email had come out with everyone that was getting promoted. One thing you have to know is that everybody already knew ahead of time, before it was officially announced, whether you got a promotion or not. So when the email came out, I already knew my name wasn’t on it because people gossip and I had not heard anything.

I remember going to my senior manager, shutting the door to his office, and asking him “what am I doing wrong?”

Learning from others

The senior manager pointed at a few names on the list. X is only a consultant but he’s already leading client discussions and interviews. Y sold a piece of work and delivered it. He pointed to a few others and then told me what they had in common: they acted above their pay grade. His logic and it made sense, was to do all the work of the role above you. When it comes time to promote, you show them you have already been doing the work so it’s a no-brainer.

Change comes from within

After that meeting, I experienced what Stephen Covey calls a ‘paradigm shift’. Rather than trying to excel in my role as a consultant, I acted like a senior consultant. I talked to clients like a senior consultant. I took on work that was normally for a senior consultant.

The key change: I thought as a senior consultant. I asked myself what a senior consultant would do if they were in my position.

That year, I was promoted.

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