Make yourself at home, but don’t get too comfortable — Being Mary Jane
I get real anxiety when I’m about to have a conversation about my future — my heart starts racing, I experience a shortness of breath, my hands shake and I literally want to scream. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a fear of rejection, a feeling of inadequacy or if it’s because I have to come to terms with the certainty of something that I find bliss in not knowing. What I do know is that I also have extremely high levels of stress when my future is uncertain (so contradictory, I know) and because of that, it’s best for me to have these conversations, even when they are the last thing on earth that I want to do.
The season premier of “Being Mary Jane,” and the fact that I was preparing for my year-end review with my manager made me think about how timid I can be when it’s time to talk about my career progression and what it means for my future. Mary Jane Paul (MJ) has been one of my favorite television characters since the pilot premiered on BET in 2013. She’s driven, confident and known for being outspoken and direct when it comes to her career, as well as other things –🍆💗💰– but that’s a blog for another time.
On the latest episode, we see MJ take on a new role that is clearly not what she desires for her professional goals, and when she learns that her expectations for her future are not seriously being considered by her new management, her passive approach to move forward with what she believes is an immediate promotion baffles me. I mean, that’s not the MJ I know — the one that I love so much! It was easy for me to ridicule MJ for not speaking up about her true aspirations, but shortly after the show ended, I was forced to face my own reality and acknowledge that I rarely speak up about mine.
So basically, watching “Being Mary Jane” gave me an “Aha! Moment.” A real life conversation about your career with your management is so necessary. Without it, it will be difficult for you to gauge the potential for progression within the company or determine if a future with the company is what you want in the first place. I know it’s scary, but everyone should make conversations about career progression a priority and not be afraid to speak up about what you want, what you’re worth and what you deserve.
Keep in mind that there is a way to approach this absolutely, important conversation so that you do not come off as being disrespectfully unsatisfied. Lucky for you, I have the tips — based on my most recent review with my manager — for how to prepare for and beast when you face your anxiety and initiate this “must have” conversation.
- Make a list of your professional goals and then develop a sub-list of two to three goals that are obtainable through your organization that will help you accomplish your overall professional goals. Discuss your goals with your management and refer to your list to keep the focus of your conversation on what is important to you. Additionally, having a list will allow your manager to see that you prepared for the conversation and want to be taken seriously.
- Be aware of your progress within the company. If you are approaching your management about your desire for a promotion, more responsibility or a different career track, you should be able to highlight what you have already accomplished. It’s good to be assertive and ask for what you want, but be ready to say why you deserve what it is that you want. Believe me, your manager will certainly consider your performance before promoting you or giving you additional responsibilities. Furthermore, if you desire a different career track and feel that your current position is not or can no longer provide you with the experience you need to venture into a new role, having the examples to back up your work ethic and success in your current position will show your manager that you have actually done or exceeded what was required of you. He or she will be more willing to help you reach your career goals by either writing letters of recommendation for future jobs or by providing additional resources for you to continue your career development.
- Do not turn your conversation with your manager into a company, management nor colleague-bashing session. This really should be common sense, but I know that it’s human habit to have everything to say about what we do not like and very little to say about what we do like. I firmly believe that positive feedback is always the best way to get what you want. If it is the company, management or colleagues with which you are unhappy, feel free to disclose this information ONLY if you have constructive suggestions for what can change. For instance, I sometimes feel that my job can become repetitive but when I decided to voice this to my manager, I was sure to also mention that I appreciate opportunities to take on other tasks outside the ordinary that challenge me in new ways, allow me to be creative and use my analytical skills. Any time you complain, you risk your employer deciding that you probably should not work for the company at all; thus, presenting complaints with relevant, thought-out plans on how to improve your situation will show your employer that you are solutions-oriented and adaptable — traits you probably claimed to have in your cover letter anyway.💁🏽
- Be open-minded. Once you present your points about your professional future, you will need to listen to your manager’s feedback with an open mind. If your manager considers you to be a vital part of the team, he or she will be willing to work with you to make sure that you do not feel as though you can no longer reach your professional goals. If your manager presents ideas to you, consider how you can take those ideas and cultivate new learning and development opportunities. Having a real life conversation about your future means that you must be transparent and honest with your manager. Having an open mind will ensure that you do not tap out on your responsibilities in your current position before you are able to secure a job that may be more aligned with your aspirations. Forreal though, don’t get fired for being honest and proceeding to give no fxcks.
The main thing to remember is that having a real life conversation about your future with your management can expose whether the employee-employer relationship is still mutually beneficial (for both parties). If it’s not — and hopefully it’s not because your talents are no longer benefiting your organization — then you will know that it is time to move on. Like MJ said, “Make yourself at home, but don’t get too comfortable.”