You may think you own your career, but the reality is you don not. Not fully anyway. Not if you work in Corporate America. The reality is that the truth lies somewhere in between. You can manage your career, and you can work hard to network, build your contacts, scout for new opportunities, but there are decisions that get made everyday outside of your control.
You are subject to the whims of others. You are subject to variables that rest outside of your influence. People are making subjective decisions about you that you may not be able to change. They have perceptions about you. True or not, they are the reality from which people begin to view you and talk about you. Navigating this maelstrom is not easy. It takes a good deal of effort. A great deal of politicking. And a ton of work.
But it is okay, it is all a part of human nature. You can combat some of this. There are steps that you can take. You can learn to navigate the politics. You can learn to be more astute. You can start to influence others by being vigilant. It does not happen over night. These things take time. And as Gen Xers it is difficult to be patient enough for the right opportunity. But it is even worse for the Milennials behind us. They are even more antsy than us. They want to lead today. They do not want to wait until tomorrow.
And this is partly the conundrum we find ourselves in. We can easily get stuck in the middle if we don’t start actively taking control of our career opportunities. We may not own our careers fully, but we can direct them. We have options to make the right decisions. To actively pursue what we want. We need to balance eagerness with patience. We need to be smart about the opportunities that we pursue. But, we need to be aggressive.
The time for us to lead in Corporate America is quickly approaching. You may not own all the decisions that are about to be made, but if you want to be unstuck, now is the time to learn how to influence them.