Ever since I was in high school I’ve been able to stay in control of the timeline I had set for my goals. I knew when I turned 16 that I would go get a job in retail so I could get that experience out of the way early on in my life to allow myself to be able to go straight into the type of merchandising job I wanted after college. I also had decided to join a fashion board while I was in high school. While I had to interview for these things I still felt like if I went after something I could make it happen.
When I got to college I knew I could major in fashion merchandising without very many road blocks. With that I knew I would need to do an internship the summer between my junior and senior year. It was up in the air which exact internship I would get but I had the confidence that if I applied to enough I would eventually end up with one of them. I kind of had the same attitude when applying for my first job out of college. Just keep applying to as many as I could that I was still somewhat interested and I would land one at some point.
Throughout those periods in life it seemed like most of the people I surrounded myself with were on similar timelines as me. When you are school it is structured in a way that people tend to move on the the next step at generally the same time. After about a year in my first post grad job I started to realize that my mindset of “if I went after what I wanted enough times, I eventually would get what I wanted” was no longer enough.
Of course at the end of the day your work ethic, drive, skills, and personality will be what helps your career growth but there will be more factors that influence the timeline of that growth once you enter the corporate world. Companies can have varying opinions on how long someone should stay in a position and managers can have varying opinions on what signals that someone is ready for the next step. In my experience you can’t just decide for yourself that you are ready to apply for internal positions, you have to get the approval of your boss and often times they have to get approval from their boss.
Since there are more varying factors to career growth after college, I would see some people who I knew moving up in their own fields pretty quickly. Since these people were in different industries than me it simply gave me a little competitive motivation to work as hard as I could in my job so I could make that happen for myself at whatever the right time was in my type of position. I personally believe that a little bit of healthy competition can be a good motivator to prevent yourself from getting complacent. However, sometimes competition as a motivator can turn into some unhealthy comparison. This is something that I’ve noticed in myself recently.
I was seeing people who I viewed as in a similar place in life getting to do things that I wanted to do. While this did make me want to work harder it also made me stressed. I started to wonder if I was where I needed to be at in life. I knew that even though these people were in similar places in life that they still had pretty different situations; but this still didn’t stop me from comparing myself in a way that made me feel frantic about my future.
Family and friends would encourage me to have more communication with the people who could help me reach my goals but for some reason I always wanted to wait until right time or until I did one more “impressive” thing. I finally was able to get some feedback at where I am at in my career and when I might be able to reach my next goal. You know what happened next? Immediately, I was no longer comparing myself to others in a way that made me feel like I wasn’t where I should be.
With that feeling gone I realized I should have listened to the advice of my family and friends and initiated getting that feedback earlier. If you are feeling stressed about your future like I was I really encourage initiating a conversation regarding feedback on your growth with the people who can help you reach your goals. Don’t wait for the just the right time. I’ve learned there is no such thing. Don’t be afraid of getting feedback that you aren’t as close to reaching your goals as you thought. At least you’ll have concrete information on what you need to do to get to that point. You won’t be left second guessing yourself for an extended period of time. Also, make getting feedback a regular thing. Once I had the initial conversation I now feel a lot more comfortable with asking for more feedback in the future to make sure I am still headed in the right direction for my own personal track. Not someone else’s track.
For me I needed feedback when it came to my professional growth but I think getting feedback can help people focus on their personal path rather than comparing their path to others in many aspects in life. Are you working on some creative project? Ask your audience how they are responding to it. Are you unsure about where you stand with a friend? Try to hang out with them one on one instead of in a group. The list goes on. At the end of the idea this post isn’t about me wanting a promotion or that this is how I will be getting one before I actually get it. My career is something that has always been important to me and for the first time in my life I was unsure where I was at in my professional development. The answer to not being stressed out about that, while seemingly obvious was asking for feedback. I think a lot of people in their early 20s can probably relate. Many of us are in entry level jobs and it is natural to want to progress. It’s also natural to feel a slight sense of competition with that. The path to get to the next step is less defined than when we were in school though.
People always say how important communication is and I knew that myself. I guess I’m just here to reinforce how important it is to actually practice that. Don’t wait for people to open up a line of communication you may need, create it yourself.