As a Career Coach, I often hear about jobs gone bad – reasons like, “The boss and I didn’t get along,” “The work team was dysfunctional,” “The expectations of the role kept changing,” “I’d been in the same position for 5 years and couldn’t get promoted,” or “New leadership came in and cleaned house.”
What do all of these common circumstances have in common? Career currency. You either have enough or you don’t – and if you don’t, you aren’t going to be happy.
Career currency is based on the actions and attitudes that get rewarded in your workplace. It’s similar to when you were a kid playing sports, knowing what had to be done to get in the coach’s good graces. Some coaches rewarded good defense, others hustle. We learned quickly that if we wanted more playing time, we had to know what the coach valued, and excel in that area to score playing time.
Work relationships with managers is not that different. Career currency is often built around a set of expectations set by managers and directors. Deliver on them, and you’ll be rewarded.
So, the question is, how can you effectively figure out your workplace’s corporate culture rewards as career currency, resulting in professional success? Some expectations are spoken, many even written down. But a surprisingly large amount are communicated in gestures and non-verbal methods.
Too often job seekers look for literal listings of company mission, vision and value statements. The key is to look at your director or manager. They individually set the tone and the pace for your corporate culture. Just like that little league coach, there are specific things they value, and ways they like to do things.
I’m guessing there is at least one manager with whom you had built career currency. That leader probably thought like you, had similar approaches, and really liked the way you solved problems – or better yet appreciated how you included them and kept them informed of progresses and/or concerns. And for doing this well, you most likely were rewarded with a pay raise, promotion or formal acknowledgement in front of others.
The problem occurs when you feel your manager is making poor choices, or that you have a better way of solving a problem, but are not given the chance to act on it. This is a situation where you will be at risk of losing some of your career currency. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make appropriate appeals – you have to be able to respect yourself! But be smart about it. If you push your agenda or work around your boss’s wishes to be successful, don’t expect to be rewarded for it.
Your career success is directly tied to those you report to and the actions they reward. You are likely in the right career, but working in the wrong reward system.
So ask yourself: “What’s the career currency in my corporate culture?”