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Why Your Most Empowering Career Move Isn’t About You

Successful people share this little secret.

When thinking about ways to advance in your career, naturally the spotlight falls on you. What can you do to position yourself for better career opportunities and job satisfaction? What steps can you take that will help you stand out above the rest?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but ask some of the most successful business people you know what has been the most empowering and rewarding aspect of their career. They won’t tell you about their meteoric rise to the top – or moments of great recognition. The common thread about what’s most meaningful will likely be their memories of how they helped others succeed.

Source: Dreamstime

You might be thinking, well that’s great for someone with 20 or more years of experience or an industry mogul, but it's not me. Interestingly, it applies to anyone in the workplace who’s in a position to train or mentor – even on an informal basis. Their story might even relate to their industry volunteer activities, outside of work.

In your own office, there are always new hires, less senior employees, coworkers, people in other departments, administrative staff, fellow committee members and others to mentor. Whether you’re a manager or staff-level employee, there are opportunities to help … all you need to do is look. It can be as simple as making an extra effort to assist the new admin who sits next to you as they learn to navigate working for multiple managers or office politics at the company.

Of course, you won’t do this at the expense of your job, but you can look for opportunities in and outside of the office that enhance your career. You’ll want to seek opportunities that make the most sense, based on your time and resources.

I know of few things that managers find more meaningful than helping make a difference in the career lives of others: helping others tap into their skill sets, watching them advance, but also learning from them. “It’s better to give than receive” is more than just an old adage to live by; it’s one to consider working by, too, despite our me-centric world.

There are multiple benefits of paying it forward by mentoring others informally or formally:

Reap personal rewards. You work for weeks to help the junior sales associate on his presentation skills. He struggled at first, but now he’s speaking like a pro, thanks to your time and encouragement. You find that when he lands the account you get greater satisfaction than some of your own personal successes, oddly enough – as you witness your ability to be of real value.

Learn. Helping other people at work is never a one-way street; everyone brings assets to the table. You’re bound to get questions that stump you and that’s one of the great unexpected perks of guiding others.

You will likely find new ways of approaching tasks and quickly discover that “two heads are better than one.” If you haven’t opted for this work style yet, you could be missing out.

Pick up leadership skills. Without helping those around you, you’re not practicing real leadership, which means supporting team members and bolstering their success. You’re only as good as the people you manage.

If you’re not a manager, this is your chance to explore the leadership experience. Being a sounding board for ideas, sharing professional insights and motivating others gives you invaluable skills, but a side benefit is that your own manager is likely to take notice of your growth prospects within the company.

Gather emotional intelligence. Working closely with someone else to further their career always presents challenges. How do you delicately explain that the spreadsheet you’re shown is in bad shape or that a person’s project goals are unrealistic? You need to be quick on your feet, show empathy and communicate clearly, while also being candid. That can be a tough balancing act – but it helps you develop your all-important emotional intelligence quotient.

Serving as a mentor, whether formal or informal, also means knowing when to just listen. That’s not always easy when you have so much to offer. But this will be a fertile ground for you to advance your ability to tune in 100 percent.

Enhance self-esteem. Once you start guiding others, you may also discover you have more extensive expertise in certain areas than you ever believed. How can you gauge what you know if it’s not put to use? It can open your eyes to your level of value in a way that never before existed.

Helping others in the broadest sense, offers satisfaction that we are contributing to society. Try it for a day. The next morning, see if you feel more empowered or if work has an uncanny new, meaningful twist.

If so, please spread the word.

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