where I was generally headed, those opportunities aligned with my bigger career goals. That’s the amazing thing about small steps: They have a tendency to grow into big ones. When you start moving in a direction, you create new opportunities for yourself.
Be Sure to Deal with Fear First
As you consider a next step, you might become a bit nervous or anxious. Doing something we’ve never done before can make us uncomfortable. It feels risky. What if we fail? What if we look stupid? What if our boss reprimands us or, even worse, laughs at us?
If you experience thoughts like this, I challenge you to consider the alternative: What will happen if I do nothing?
Doing nothing, although it feels comfortable, can be riskier than doing something. In the past two years, I’ve met with several job seekers who are unexpectedly out of work after a long career in one job. With their heads in the sand, they dutifully worked away at that one job, assuming that the comfort they had would last. Unemployment is the worst kind of discomfort. If you do nothing to advance your career, you are likely to face this situation sometime in the future
Even if that something proves to be the wrong thing, it can still be valuable. For me, working on my first BA contract helped me learn that my big picture career plan would not focus on contracting and consulting as a BA. I may never have discovered this through analysis. With the experience, however, I saw it rather quickly.
Get Past the Fear
One technique to overcome this fear is suggested by Dale Carnegie in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living . He suggests you envision the worst that can happen. By embracing the worst as the reality of your situation, you open up your creative juices and position yourself to improve upon the worst possible outcome.
Say you set a small goal to build a better relationship with a key project contributor with whom you’ve never really hit it off. You might decide to invite the person to coffee for an informal conversation; but the idea paralyzes you with fear. I’ve been there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve neglected to do the obvious thing to improve my situation because it seemed unnatural or scary. But if you take the perspective of imagining the worst, this feeling seems quite silly.
Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen if you invite someone to coffee? He could laugh at you, though that’s unlikely. He could tell you he doesn’t have the time. But even in these negative scenarios, you’ve acquired some new information. You know a bit more about your stakeholder’s priorities and where you stand, and you may have opened the door of the relationship just a small bit. Even the worst case scenario isn’t all that bad.
How can you go about improving upon the worst possible situation? Well, you could do a bit of research and discover what kind of breaks this person takes and then change your suggestion to fit his schedule. You could be sure to stop by and ask at the best possible time, when he is most likely to be receptive to your idea. You can smile and start the conversation by asking a question that you know will get a “yes” response, such as “Wow, this project sure has taken some unexpected turns, don’t you think?” Once you accept that you might be told no, you have nothing to lose and you open your mind to uncover ways to
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