Advocacy and Advancement: Hard Work Just Ain’t Enough
The other day, I saw a joke online about how useless it was to learn the quadratic equation in high school. All of us learned it at some point but I’d agree that after high school, the usefulness of learning algebra drops for most people that choose not to pursue a technical degree or profession. Although created for humor, there’s actually a lot of truth in the statement.
There are so many life skills like how to file taxes or invest in the stock market that go untaught and unless you’re fortunate enough to have someone in your life to guide you, you have to figure things out on your own and hope (and pray) you get it right.
In addition to money management, another skill set I’d personally add is the importance of the unspoken rules of work; more specifically, the importance of advocacy in the workplace. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen exceptionally smart people passed over for promotions or career boosting opportunities simply because their arguably less qualified peers have advocates and they don’t. In other words, the more professionally successful people had table pounders, people in a position of authority and influence to speak up for them when it matters.
Oftentimes, no one really tells you this nuance of the workplace and unless you’re observant enough to notice, many years and opportunities could pass by before you do. There’s something to be said about being heads down and having a strong work ethic, that goes without saying. But to be successful, it’s important to have at least one, preferably more than two, senior people that know you and your work.
Look for people that mirror your ethics and behaviors, or someone that you aspire to mimic. It’s always a plus to have one or two supporters in high places that see something about you in them and are invested in nurturing your growth. From there, it’s critical to keep them engaged and interested by scheduling regular syncs to discuss your work and accomplishments. If possible, volunteer to help them through work-related problems that are top of mind for them.
Hard work is important but everything being equal, success almost always comes down to the relationships you have with the people that can influence your career.
You have to be your own advocate and make sure that the right people know the story you want them to tell.