I’ve always subscribed to the “fake it till you make it” mentality, instead of waiting for something to just happen.
Sir Richard Branson said “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later.”
I believe that that’s how we grow, that’s how we test our limits and learn some self-appreciation and self-respect in the process.
To me, that’s the only way to advance. You’re never sure if you can do something for the first time, but if you have some — or most — of the skills necessary for the job ahead, say yes! There will always be things that you’ll need to learn, so why not learn them now? I don’t think that I’ve ever taken on a job — or client — that I didn’t have to learn something new to get the job done. To some, that could sound risky. To me, it was the only way that I could get moving in the direction that I wanted to move with my career. None of this means that I took jobs that I didn’t know how to do at all, the opposite. I took a job (I went for the interview and got hired for the job) that I knew how to do, mostly. I am a fast learner, so having something significant enough to learn on the new job, kept me engaged longer. Sometimes though, not long enough. You can only do the same thing over and over for so long before you want to simply walk out. In the corporate world, the advances didn’t come as fast as I would have liked, so those jobs got stale, and I lost interest … I couldn’t keep asking for more responsibilities, or asking for yet another promotion as often as I mastered the set of skills necessary for the level that I was at. It got annoying for one of my bosses. Another just gave me more responsibility without increasing my pay. That worked out for a while, but not when I was doing 3 jobs, working almost 80 hours/week, and getting paid for one.
The lessons that I have learned from those days are many, but the important ones in this case are:
1. always go for something a bit bigger than you can currently handle at the professional level, especially if you’re passionate about it. If there’s passion, you’ll be able to achieve anything that you set your mind to.
2. when you’re going after a promotion or a job above your current level with another company, or are starting your own business, think about your entire work and personal experience and tap into what you’re naturally good at and use those skills and experiences. You are an accumulation of your life experiences. Simpler said, you’re the sum total of your life experience. If you think that you will be able and would enjoy working in the position above you, GO FOR IT. Look at point 3 if you don’t have the skills.
3. don’t have the skills? (here comes the no shortcuts part) Take a class, read a book, go to a seminar, watch a webinar series, or watch a YouTube video. I’m not joking. There’s a lot of good (and not so good) resources on YouTube. But before you dive into the non SEO friendly YouTube rabbit hole, take a webinar from a person that you admire, listen in on a podcast (a few are listed at the bottom of this post) that not only inspires you but motivates you to follow your passions. If you’d rather go the more formal way, take a course from Coursera, or M.I.T.’s edX online learning platform, or from Standford University Online division. There are plenty of options and many of them excellent! I have taken many classes via the above platforms, and I have to tell you that it made me better at my job, helped me tune into what I really wanted from my career, and not lastly, from my life.
The less formal and actually a lot quicker way to learn is taking a day (or more) class from entrepreneurs livecasting training sessions events on CreativeLife. I took a class years ago with the phenomenon that is Tim Ferris, when he was talking about his 4-Hour Life book. Great session.
If you’d rather (and have the time & money to) take a graduate level program, those are plentiful. Some companies will pay for your school, and will be glad that you want to advance your education. If you have a good manager, she will see your enthusiasm and offer ways for you to take on more responsibilities even before you graduate. Discuss this with your boss or HR manager.
My suggestion: take a Coursera class first to see if you’re even interested in the class, the school/university/program, or the professor. I have discovered many amazing professors and varied ways of teaching. All great, but not all appeal to everyone. So find something that you love and go do that.
The last thing on this point, and the most important: READ! Read anything and everything. Stay up to date in your field. Read a lot. The more I read, the more I want to read. My new hairdresser (I moved and had to give up my long term relationship with my hair magician that used to make me feel like a Million $) is not really happy with me because I go to the salon and I read. I take my iPad and catch up on the latest eBooks from Unbounce or HubSpot, or some of the reports that come from the BCG or Deloitte. I have to. Well, I want to! I prioritize my time. I’d rather find out what’s happening in my industry than have irrelevant or superficial conversations.
4. ask for the promotion. You heard me. ASK! But before you do, do your homework. This is yet another no-shortcuts step. Us women, we tend to undervalue ourselves. Somehow (most) men don’t have that issue. They know their worth, and ask for promotions, and ask for salary increases. They ask. We should, too. Before you ask your boss for a meeting, do your homework. Find out what people doing the same job at another company get paid. A good negotiating tactic is actually having another job offer, and then asking for a meeting with your current boss to ask for the promotion and/or the salary increase, based on the new job offer with the competing company. Most likely, you will get the promotion and the salary increase, as companies hate to lose trained employees. It could take another 3 to 6, to sometimes 12 months before your replacement can produce what you’re producing now. There is no guarantee, either or. Your boss might agree right away, or might need a bit of convincing and talking with the HR department before coming back with an answer either or. Companies do have budgets. So, know your worth, do your homework, and ask for the promotions. Company loyalty is a thing of the past. You cannot justify staying with a company simply because you have worked with them for a long time. The company doesn’t think that way. They will let go employees if it benefits the company’s bottom line and the quarterly statements / shareholders. Long gone are the days of loyalty (from both sides). This is a profit driven world. Make sure that you take care of yourself as well, as companies do, as men do.
All this being said, there is no shortcut to being an astronaut! I’m not saying that you can fake your way into the next SpaceX ship launching astronauts into space (estimated for 2018). There are many jobs and careers that take a specific life and education path and those I wouldn’t advise you to even think about faking your way into, e.g. STEM. All the above is for the business world, where you can slowly build skill upon skill, and grow. Here you can push the envelope a bit. But it has to do with knowing yourself, and with knowing your limits.
If you don’t know your limits, you might take on too much and end up suffering because of it. Burnout is a real thing, regardless of how corporate propaganda is trying to diminish the importance and vilify it. If you don’t know your limits you might also sell yourself short! And the party that suffers here is you. So I guess, the biggest lesson here is knowing yourself. Socrates said: Nosce temet — Greek for Know Thyself. THAT is the lesson. Know when to say yes, know when to say no, and know when to ask for the promotion.
Thinking about learning in the long-term, learning a new language or a new skill is said to slow down the brain degeneration, and to even stave off dementia. I don’t know about you, but I love my brain, so I’ll be learning until I take my last breath. Life is a constant learning opportunity. The Buddha said “life is suffering”. To me, life is suffering without learning.
Here’s a list of resources to get you learning now.
A few Online Learning Platforms:
Courses from top worldwide professors and universities: Coursera
Courses taught by M.I.T. professors and other tech universities: edX
Courses from Stanford University Online
Entrepreneurs livecasting one day (or more) training sessions: CreativeLife
In the language apps arena, among the big ones, like DuoLingo & Babbel. It’s worth mentioning Memrise, as it is not only a language learner, and a fun one at that, but across the board, a good learning app.
Podcasts that inspire me:
NPR: How to do Everything
NPR: TED Radio Hour
Tim Ferriss’ podcast
From the self proclaimed nerdist Chris Hardwick: The Nerdist podcast
From the co-author of Freakonomics Stephen J. Dubner: Freakonomics podcast
From the creators at HowStuffWorks.com: Stuff You Should Know podcast
For more articles like this, find me at TheBusinessMagazineforWomen.com, The Business Magazine For Women: A platform for business, technology, entrepreneurship, finance, culture and socially impactful news for today’s business woman.