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Career Advice You Won’t Get From Your Boss

Mon, Aug. 29, 2016 Posted: 02:48 PM

If you listen to those who built their careers in the 70s, 80s, and even the 1990s, you hear a lot of advice about impressing your boss, sticking with a company for years, and following one path to the top. It was great advice for the time, but with the current, competitive job market, the ability to research competitors over the Internet, and the ways to get your name noticed without your boss’s say-so, the natural progression of your career has changed. Want to make a name for yourself in the new millennium?

Don’t make your path too narrow
A generation ago, people got a job with one company and carefully climbed the ladder step by step until they reached the top. Now, people change companies and careers regularly throughout their lifetime as they learn more about their passions, gather the necessary skills to move forward, and refine their understanding of their industry.

When you think about where you want to be in five years, ten years, twenty years, focus as much on how you want to do things as why. Do you want to be a leader? Do you want to have a corner-suite? Do you want to be an influencer on social media? Would you rather run your own company or work for someone else? There are more options than ever before, and knowing how you want to work will help you know where you want to work.

Notice “followership” as well as leadership
Leadership is an important quality; inspiring those behind you to join you on your journey is necessary for anyone who manages other people. But being able to be a follower is also important. Followership is considered the flip side of leadership, showing the ability to follow directions with enthusiasm, communicating with other followers about the importance of the mission, and generally moving forward in a way that helps instead of hindering. Demonstrating this to those around you is as important as demonstrating leadership.

Focus on your career, not the company
For better or worse, company loyalty is a thing of the past. Especially as pensions are privatized through 401ks and other investments, workers have few incentives to stay with a company over the long term. Most employees who focus on their career are active on industry websites and general job sites like and LinkedIn, and know that the recruiters for competitors are just a click away.

It can feel like you’re betraying your current company by leaving, but that’s just not true anymore. If you’ve learned all you can in a particular position, and there’s nowhere for you to go and continue to learn, it’s time to move on. You can choose to have that conversation with your boss, if you trust them not to let you go on the spot, but many people choose to keep their search under wraps for good reason.

At some point in the future, we might see the pendulum swing back, but for now, it’s important to focus on yourself and your career, instead of the company’s future.

Work for a great boss
Your boss is going to help you learn your industry and your job, so while you might daydream of working for a particular company, what you should really be looking for when you’re job-hunting is the perfect boss. Need to learn more about marketing? Find someone who has a reputation for being an innovator in that arena. Ready to find out how to lead through difficult times? Search for someone who’s already done it and learn their secrets. Having a great boss makes work fun and exciting. The only thing better than celebrating special events in your life is enjoying the person you work for. The work is likely to be similar just about everywhere in the industry; it’s who you’re working for and with that makes your day to day fantastic or miserable.

Time your requests
Statistically, we know that the best way to get a raise is to ask for one, but what your boss won’t tell you (unless they’re very good and you ask well) is that different organizations have different cycles for promotions and raises. Some want to hear about your promotion desires when they do your annual review, but others are planning out lateral moves mid-year, and need to know then. Talk to your boss about your career ambitions – this should be part of their job, after all – and ask about the best times for requests and motivations.

When you want to ask about a raise, make sure that your boss is in a good mood. Make sure that they’re the right person to ask, and that you’re not wasting their time and yours. Come prepared with what extra you’re giving the company, and why you deserve it. Just showing up on time every day is the bare minimum, remember, so make sure you bring more to the table.

What career advice have you learned without going through your boss?

Margarita Hakobyan