Maria, second-in-charge of a well-known nonprofit, wanted to step out as a leader. Her vision was to create a new model for working with vulnerable women in Boston’s urban communities. She gained insight through feedback from her team, colleagues, boss and civic leaders, who described her best qualities as a strong relationship builder with a great reputation among clients. They said Maria’s best skills included marketing programs in the community, managing people and implementing programs that helped women transition from public assistance to work.
But Maria lacked key executive skills such as strategic planning and fundraising. This was holding her back. Her boss, reluctant to take a chance on her, assigned her the same old projects and her job lost its challenge. Getting out of bed with less enthusiasm for the workday ahead, Maria fretted about the future and felt stuck. She could never become head of this nonprofit as long as her manager was in the leading role. He’d made it clear he was there to stay. She felt she had two choices: Learn new skills in her current job, or leave for another nonprofit.
Related: When to Say ‘I Quit’
But there was a third option. Maria needed to answer three questions, which would make her feel more engaged at work:
How could she…
- Find more flow in her current job so she could reclaim her passion and the sense of challenge and accomplishment she once felt?
- Provide a valuable service or outcome to the organization, so it could be even more successful in achieving its vision and goals?
- Prepare for the future, so she could move toward what she envisioned next?
By answering these questions, Maria devised a win-win plan and had a heart-to-heart with her manager. Knowing that her manager needed to free up some of his own time to focus on legislative affairs that impacted the nonprofit, Maria proposed taking charge of some aspects of the organization’s finances that consumed his time and energy, including preparing and delivering segments of board presentations. She also proposed playing a more active role in strengthening board member relationships, which would play to her strong skills, while giving her the opportunity to participate in discussions about strategy.
With each step, she moved closer to her vision for her career.
Her manager saw the win-win, and they implemented the plan. With each step, she moved closer to her vision for her career. When an opportunity to be in charge of a different organization came along, she was ready. Today, she’s the executive director of a nationally recognized nonprofit.
If you want to feel more engaged and inspired at work, try the following:
- Write down one work aspiration for your current job for the next six months to one year.
- Find your nextivity, or an exciting activity that lies in the nexus between your employer’s view and your own.
- Think about your organization’s needs for the next six months to one year. Think about the visions and goals, and how you can fit in.
Related: How to Find Meaning In Your Job
Adapted from Take Charge of Your View: Career Advice You Won’t Get From Your Boss by Lisa Prior
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.