You’ve been itching for a promotion at work, itching so badly it’s all you can think about while you’re spending a third or more of your day there. But have you ever asked yourself why you want a promotion? Have you defined the word “promotion” for your purposes?
Those are only a few of the plethora of intriguing questions raised — and answered — in a new career development book titled, “Outgrow Your Space at Work: How to Thrive at Work and Build a Successful Career.” The author, Rick Whitted, MBA, started his career as a part-time bank teller while attending college. He gradually advanced to lead several regional and national teams as a senior manager, consistently building top-performing teams.
Whitted urges his readers not to quit their jobs simply because they are frustrated over an apparent lack of success. Job-hopping can give you a bad professional reputation. Besides, have you considered what success looks like?
As a blogger who reviews select new books, I had the good fortune to interview Whitted and directly (via email) ask him questions about career and work. I have peppered quotes from his book throughout these questions and answers.
“We do not measure ourselves by promotion in any other area of our lives — except work.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: Why do few ask “Why is a promotion important?”
A: Most people don’t know to ask. Our culture has us condition to think progression. In school I went from kindergarten, to first, then second grade; and so on. At work, businesses only know how to speak in corporate ladder language. Everything they describe as a reward is tied to the idea that, “If you work hard, and do xyz, you’ll get a bigger job or a bigger paycheck.” So we are highly conditioned to view success as progression. Even if the very core of our being disagrees with this notion; many struggle with feeling good about the direction and progression of their careers.
“For me, doing a great job at work was about being able to get to the next position and make more money. In that moment, I realized I also had no idea why earning a promotion was so important to me. This new revelation fascinated me.” — Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: You write that two-thirds of employees who ask for a promotion get one. What do you attribute that to?
A: Those that ask are engaged. They are in dialogue and communication with their leadership. Gallup has done extensive work on employee engagement from millions of workplaces throughout the world. Their findings concluded that only 13 percent of workers around the world are actually engaged at work—i.e., emotionally and personally connected to the goals and objectives of the organization that employees them. 2/3 of those that ask are also getting predominantly because the overwhelming majority are NOT asking.
“Over the years I have watched many employees start strong in their careers only to end up frustrated, stalled out, or on a never-ending job search.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: You wrote in Chapter 2 about aligning career with values. Can you share some more on how this is such an important thing?
A: We tend to be passionate about what we value most—our families, our hobbies, etc. If you feed what you value most—in life or in the workplace—you will give your best. If you give your best you will be your best. If you are guiding your career decisions based on money, but what you value most is work-life balance at work, you will eventually be drained and not be happy. Eventually you will disengage, or you will job-hop. It’s important to make career decisions that match what you value because you will be really good at that thing. Eventually, the pay or position will also rise.
“This idea of climbing the corporate ladder is ingrained in our way of thinking about the workplace.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: What would you say to a person who says work is only important to make more money and you have to keep advancing in promotions?
A: I’d ask a ton of questions; starting with…Why? Why is advancing at work so important? Is it to be able to get more stuff? Is it to have more status, or feel more accomplished in front of others? Surely it can’t be just about status and stuff can it? The truth is, we spend nearly 55 percent of our awake hours at work or doing work-related activities according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We are using work to answer a very important life question…IS MY LIFE MOVING FORWARD. And, we don’t even know it. But, it’s why one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone is, “So, what do you do?”
“The most prevalent career mistake I’ve seen is assuming that positional advancement is the only option for promotion. When that advancement doesn’t come or come quickly enough, an employee’s expectations become skewed and they grow impatient.” — Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: What would you say to the person who says they are trying to stay engaged with a job but their boss and/or coworkers get in the way? (Bad boss, lazy coworkers, nonsensical rules or whatever the case may be).
A: I’d say that we all have those same type of people in our families and/or our personal relationships. Innately, we use relational skills to work through those. Even the most valued and trusted of relationships have had (and will have) very rocky seasons or intense moments. Yet we work through them. Eventually, what we get on the other side is an engaged relationship that benefits us. Now imagine if we applied this in the workplace with our bosses and coworkers. What we would get is an engaged relationship. That is crucial if you are to build a lasting and successful career. If we tried this, more people would be able to grow with as much hopping as we do.
“Employees’ hard work impacts the bottom line — and the extras.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: What is the most important trait a company is looking for out of a worker?
A: An engaged attitude. Someone who’s really there. Willing to do what ever, help whoever, and pick up the slack wherever. And guess what…that’s exactly what we all want in our personal relationships! It amazes me how we so easily disconnect that our managers and business owners (who are also human) would actually want the same thing from their employees.
“Before you can begin to discuss your career path, you must understand what you value.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: Was it hard for you to share your own experiences and, at times, mistakes with the public?
A: It would have been about five years ago. But being on the journey of writing ‘Outgrow Your Space At Work’ has been therapeutic and helpful. I can understand years of wrong thinking and in hindsight not be surprised at those outcomes. Even more important, I am making career decisions today that align with what will make the best me I can be. And, that’s one who does what feeds my value drivers.
“I never expected an employee to teach me something that would change my formula for lasting career success. But he did.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Q: What have I not asked yet that is relevant to this topic?
A: I would challenge people to ask, “Why is work so emotional? Why do we feel like someone kicked us in the stomach when we did not get what we felt we should have gotten at work?” The American Psychological Associations rates stress in American adults every year. Consistently, money (64 percent) followed closely by work (60 percent), always beats out family responsibility, family health and personal health. The things that we say are dearest to us (i.e. family and personal well-being) does not emotionally move us like work. I wrote this book to talk about this because no one is saying it out loud—even though we feel it inside of us. Work is emotional. Yet, we blindly trust what we feel about our career decisions without truly understanding what driving it. 2.5 million people (according to the BLS) quit their jobs every MONTH because they don’t consider these things.
“The principles of career progression that I share are not fancy and don’t require a graduate degree to master, but because of them I’ve received promotion after promotion.”— Whitted in “Outgrow Your Space at Work.”
Whitted’s website is rickwhitted.com. More information on the book is at OutgrowYourSpace.com. You can take a career assessment at CareerWhitt.com.
The publisher is Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Their website is revellbooks.com. You can buy the book on those websites, on Amazon or from traditional book sellers.
If you are thinking about getting ahead at work, or even better, about how to make the best of your current job, I urge you to buy Whitted’s book.