Like many millennials, I was stuck in an entry-level position making $35,000/year struggling to get by. I worked my ass off, had a master’s degree, and all my money went to paying for living expenses and paying off school debt. By 29, I knew I could never afford to get married, I couldn’t even dream of affording to have children, had never taken an actual vacation, and felt guilty for purchasing the occasional Starbucks beverage.
I know so many of you feel me right now.
While I was working towards my master’s degree, I promised myself this crap would stop. I was GREAT at what I did, but couldn’t move up in my career due to every excuse under the sun.
- I didn’t have a master’s degree
- So-and-so has been with the company longer
- Unfortunately the field isn’t lucrative
- Budget cuts
- No work experience outside of one field
- Not enough experience in my field
- The hiring manager hired their friend’s niece’s roommate’s sister
- The company hired internally
So how did I get around these barriers?
I looked up to mentors and relied on their advice. I leaned on my professors, my supervisors, my previous supervisors, and older colleagues. I talked with everyone about how they got to where they were and asked for constructive feedback of how I could do the same. I actively sought out ways to improve my skills AND create strong, meaningful professional connections.
2. I choose a few companies I wanted to work for and focused in on them. Rather than wasting time throwing hundreds of random application to the wall in hopes one would stick, I figured out what I really wanted. For me, I decided to move to another city and focused on two main companies I wanted to work for. I learned as much as I could about the company, their culture, their mission and values, and the other people that worked there.
3. Then I stalked the crap out of people on LinkedIn. I randomly reached out to people at those companies and asked for their advice about how they do to where they were and if they had any advice for me. I ended up making some incredible friends and connecting with my current supervisor. I made sure people knew my name so when my application came across their office, the name would at least ring a bell.
4. I followed my applications with emails expressing interest. Whenever I applied to a position, I would look for the hiring manager (or senior manager in the department) and reach out to them. Almost every time I found their contact information on LinkedIn or on the company website. I would send them an email explaining that although I applied online, I wanted to personally express my interest. I also attached my cv and cover letter and thanked them for their time. Many times, I would send an email and soon after, I’d see they were checking out my LinkedIn profile.
5. I made my intentions known BEFORE accepting a position. When I was offered a position that was less than what I desired, I contacted the hiring manager and let them know that while I was grateful for the offer, I was also highly interested in professional development opportunities and growth. This was scary because they could have rescinded the offer, knowing the position wasn’t the best fit for me. However, having that transparent conversation made me the front runner for a promotion when the next position opened.
6. I worked my ass off. Knowing I was looking to move up quickly, I learned my job responsibilities as quickly as possible and then started volunteering to help in other ways. If I saw someone else who was falling behind, I would ask how I could help. Sometimes, I was given tasks as simple as data entry to help make their job easier. However, assisting with the other tasks gave me the talking points needed for my next interview.
7. I asked permission to apply for another position. I spoke with both my supervisor and the HR manager BEFORE I even put my application in for another position. I did not have to do this, but speaking with them first assured me I was qualified for the position and opened up the conversation about why I wanted to move up and how I was prepared for the extra responsibilities.
8. I treated the interview as if I didn’t know my boss. I was interviewed in my office, during work hours, 5 feet from my own desk. But, when I walked in, I treated the interview as if I was meeting my boss and colleague for the first time. I didn’t talk to much about what I currently do, but I highlighted how my skills could be used in the new position. I also followed up with a thank you email to the hiring committee.
9. I never talked about the position at work. I didn’t tell my coworkers I was interviewing, I didn’t talk about the position as if I was going to get it, and I didn’t treat my current position as if I was leaving it. I remained as professional as possible.
10. I communicated with my supervisor from both a hiring manager prospective and from an employee-supervisor prospective. During the interview, I told her I wanted the position. But, on our bi-weekly one-on-ones, I told her about my desire to grow and how I felt my current position wasn’t the best fit, and why. We talked about my professional growth so she could see my value in the new role and didn’t see me as money hungry.
In the past, I had gone into new positions and kept my mouth shut. I learned quickly that being a push over and saying “I understand” when turned down for promotions wasn’t getting me anywhere. I professionally voice my concerns in my new environment and took a completely different stand when it came to my career goals and how I would achieve them. When it comes to achieving any goals, you can’t just “wait your turn.” You have to KNOW what you want and go out there and grab it!
XO – J