Having ambition in life is a great thing and should be encouraged. However, this same ambition can be shattered if you push beyond the boundaries of your capabilities and, as a result, your self-confidence suffers a serious blow.
Knowing your own career boundaries is essential, therefore, if you’re to avoid falling into that trap.
Contemplating a career move? OK – why? Are you looking for a more comfortable workplace? More manageable hours? An easier commute? More money? That’s all OK. All of these can be quite easily attained. (But beware the ‘greener grass’ syndrome..).
However, if your ambitions are somewhat higher - good for you. Ambitious people can be highly attractive for their self-belief, their enthusiasm and positive outlook. (Overbearing and ego led ambition can be just as unattractive, so best avoided.) Provided your ambitions are seen to be realistic, and not simply ridiculous, you will tend to gain a lot of support from those around you. So yes, great ideas will score well; but you must know your own boundaries, and communication with others – colleagues, boss, friends or partners – will help you to define them.
This can help in two ways, either: “That’s a fantastic idea. Yup – go for it!” or “Whoa! Is this really you?” – both of which open up the topic for conversation and, possibly, further research. It’s up to you to know what your boundaries are, but sometimes you’ll benefit by hearing it from someone who knows you well and whose opinion you trust. The advice you can get from, say, your boss is likely to be more focused on the role itself, but equally important and valid.
We’ve talked about setting your career goals and this becomes an integral part of that process. If you are to achieve both your own goals and that all-important job satisfaction, you must be fully aware of your own capabilities and how others perceive them in you. A simple example might be that you covet the role of Department Head and, through your own efforts and endorsement of others, you land the post:
OK, during the first couple of weeks you’ll be finding your feet, and there will be a degree of flex offered by those around you, but then the weight of the responsibility kicks in as you suddenly find yourself accountable for the performance (or lack of it) of others; or that your own performance is facing much greater scrutiny from senior management and that your overall stress levels have increased enormously! You’ve exceeded the boundaries and now you want to row back – but often this is easier said than done. Oh dear..
The old saying of “Be careful what you wish for” could apply here. Another example is of the agricultural engineer who coveted a role in sales: “Dump the overalls, into a company car – what’s not to like?” Well - his customers, actually. Previously he’d arrive on the farm to fix a problem (“Great guy”) but now he was there trying to sell them something (“Go away!” – or words to that effect). Subsequently he was able to go back to the overalls, where he re-discovered contentment. Lesson learned.
In this case the boundaries were highly relevant. Many people strive for happiness in both their life and their work, but if you can work within your boundaries, you may find that simply being content has its own rewards.
The conclusion to this piece is really very simple. Ambition is great, and you can often perform even better than you expected; but over-stepping the mark can be hugely disappointing – for you and others.
As you target a role that satisfies your ambitions, make sure you carry out detailed research (again through friends or colleagues you can trust). It’s easy to say, “Oh yeah, I’m sure I can do that…..” without knowing the facts; knowing your own boundaries will help you to avoid potential disaster.
- Make sure your ambitions are realistic
- Know why you want that next role
- Consult friends and colleagues
- What can you offer?
- How it can go wrong!
- Contentment vs Happiness