Remember “The Emperor’s New Clothes” story by Hans Christian Andersen? Two weavers promise to make the Emperor a suit of clothes invisible to people unfit or incompetent for their positions. The Emperor slips into his new outfit and while parading before his subjects, a child yells out, “He isn’t wearing anything at all!”
It’s a classic story of being afraid to confront the truth, even when it makes us look stupid or compromises our brand. The more we want something to be true, the harder try we try to make it so.
This happens in our careers.
If the shoe fits, wear it! Just don’t wear it out!
A job that fits us is like fuzzy slippers. We don’t want to give it up. But a career isn’t about just one job. It’s about a family of them, one job after another that keeps stretching us, building our skills, and testing our abilities.
It’s a problem when we get so comfy in those slippers that we don’t want to take them off. After all, we can’t wear slippers in the snow or rain. We eventually need shoes and boots.
We can outgrow our footwear and our jobs. When we do, we need to make a change, even when it means an uncomfortable or imperfect fit at the start.
I once worked with a group of people I loved. They were like family. Coming to work everyday was really fun. After I’d spent five years with them, my boss told me there was position open that was perfect for me, a promotion. I adored my boss too and didn’t want to leave him or my colleagues. I told him so.
“There’s nothing left for me to teach you,” he said. “You’ve outgrown me and need to work for someone who will take you to the next step in your career.”
That advice always stuck with me. Even though it was hard to accept, he was right. It wasn’t that he was out of knowledge to impart. He just didn’t have enough organizational leverage, position power, or influence to help my growth.
You don’t have to have a generous boss like him to make that next step. You just need to remember his message and put it to work when the time is right for you.
Keep a mirror handy and check your reflection.
We aren’t always lucky enough to have someone helping us see when we are or are not ready to make a smart career move.
Shakespeare wrote that seeming is not reality. Most of us have little real understanding of what is required to be successful in the jobs we’re after, especially ones with leadership requirements.
All we really know is what we think we see the incumbent doing. But that’s an illusion just like the Emperor’s new clothes.
That’s why you need trusted people to give you the straight scoop about your own capabilities. People like:
• Mentors • Your boss, if you’re lucky enough to have a good one • Colleagues in your own and other departments • Friends outside of work who know your skills
Then you have to be brave enough to ask them to tell you the truth...the naked truth!
In time you will also outgrow the insights these people can offer as you advance in your career. So you need to constantly seek others who can fill their role.
Be smart. Develop a winning style.
Business fitness is about being prepared and ready for the challenges and opportunities that will help you attain the kind of success you want. Part of that readiness is having good people at hand to give you the right cues when it’s time to take center stage. So keep your britches up, your shoes tied, and your shirt on as you take on your next big role!
Have you ever been in a position where you outgrew your job? What were your next steps? How did it all work out?