“The best ability is availability.” Bill Parcells, Hall of Fame football coach
If you’re a sports fan then you have likely heard the aforementioned (and overused) quote a time or two. The sentiment is an exaggeration, of course, as you’ll need to demonstrate proficiency in other abilities to differentiate yourself at work, and your availability will be expected (you won’t get paid otherwise!). But today we’ll talk about availability in a trickier context — when you’ve contemplated resigning from your current position, but ultimately decided to stay. To wit, you’ve decided to “remain available” to your present employer.
Workers — including young professionals — are leaving their companies at a record pace these days. As you’ll recall, our last blog was How to Play the Great Resignation – Going! That is, once you’ve decided to leave your present employer, how do you best go about it? Today we address the opposite proposition. Staying. Presumably some – perhaps a meaningful number – of your work colleagues have departed, but you have chosen to stay. How do you make the most of doing so? How do you use this “Great Resignation” opportunity to advance your career where you work? Here are some suggestions from the crack Look Out Above! team:
Assess the new landscape and, if appropriate, revise your career plan
Consider your next step given new opportunities that may be available. What has changed? Who has stayed, and in what roles? Do you have the same boss and, if so, is that likely to remain the case for long? Has a reorganization occurred and, if so, how does it affect you and your prospects for advancement? What else that impacts you has changed since Covid and its aftermath, or is likely to change soon? Your goal remains the same as before: to find your niche within the organization. Namely, a place where you get to use more of the skills you are naturally good at, where you are appreciated and supported, and where what you do is recognized as contributing to the organization’s success and is compensated accordingly. In short, you are looking for a role that you enjoy, where you can excel, and where you are rewarded.
As Michael’s boss Marty explained to him in the movie, Michael Clayton: “At this, what you do, you’re great . . . Michael, you got something everybody wants. You have a niche. You made a place. You made a niche for yourself.” Marty knew the importance of finding one’s niche.
Departures or a reorganization may have created a new need or slot that you can fill. You may have the opportunity to transfer to a new department, or the work formerly done in another department may now come to you. When a different role for which you’re well suited becomes available, convince others you’re the right person for it. Or identify a role that is needed but does not yet exist and sell both the role and your fit for it. Perhaps the role is unappreciated or represents an opportunity that others don’t seem to want. Claim it or create it. Then work hard to exceed expectations. You may discover that this area of opportunity requires your best strengths and that you come to love doing it.
To find your niche you may have to move laterally, or even downward for a time. Think of your path not as a corporate ladder that only goes up or down, but as a jungle gym where lots of paths lead to your desired destination. It may be wise to move sideways or serve a stint in another office (even abroad) if doing so allows you to showcase your best skills, broaden your network, develop a deeper understanding of the business, and perhaps even prepare for leadership. When you love what you do and are grateful for the opportunity to do it, you’ll know you’ve found your niche.
Re-focus on connecting with your manager
Your manager likely needs you now more than ever, especially if you are stepping into a larger role, and especially if the company is short-staffed due to departures. Be intentional about how you can provide value to your manager and help her succeed. This likely means clarifying expectations, staying in communication, providing candid input, taking ownership of projects and problems, bringing problems with a recommended solution, being the detail person as needed, and contributing more in meetings. And if these are trying times at your place of work, use that opportunity to rise to the occasion.
If you have a new manager, connect with your new boss in ways that earn you credibility. Your good reputation may precede you, but your new boss will form her own opinion as she assesses your work and how you interact with others. Recognize and accept that your work world has changed. In a sense you’re starting over; commit to establishing a good connection.
Be a role model and a help to others
It’s a smaller team now, and no matter when you were hired you are a “veteran” compared to some and to those who will soon be hired. You know more about the inner workings of the company than many. As part of its culture, every organization has its own buzzwords and jargon, as well as a system to know, work within, and maneuver around. Who must approve or support something, regardless of what the organization chart says? What will and won’t the company spend money on? Which department consistently produces the senior leaders of tomorrow? What is and isn’t valued in an employee? You probably know better than most. Use this information to further your career and to help others.
Finally, do keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the possibility that your departing colleagues were right to depart! Whether due to a toxic culture, bad leadership, non-competitive compensation, lack of support, or something else, the job market is the best it has been in many years. After giving it a good go, if staying proves to be unsatisfying you still have the option to move on.
The formula for career success has not changed: find your niche, prove what you can do, then keep showing up, doing your job, learning, and growing. When others see what you can do, the possibilities for your next step will expand. Given the current climate of accelerated attrition, new doors have or likely will open for you before long. Your path may lead somewhere more satisfying than you ever could have imagined. It’s up to you to make your decision to stay the best decision for you!