We’ve all been there. You’re young and starting out in your career, you want to prove yourself and, most importantly, for people to take you seriously. In my early twenties, I did everything imaginable for my career that I was told I should do to be successful. I was involved with many professional organizations, participated on event committees for local nonprofits, and never missed a networking event.
As time passed, I witnessed some positives from my dedication to moving ahead. But I quickly began to see the toll it was taking. If we’re being honest, I was exhausted and saw more negative effects it was having on me, not to mention what was probably the worst part — I found myself becoming resentful toward the things I once enjoyed taking part in.
Being selfish in your career can mean a number of things. It can be as small as taking a night off from checking your email or mustering the courage to ask for that raise. Sometimes being selfish is needed and ultimately will help in your professional life and career.
6 Ways To Start Being More Selfish In Your Career
1. Take a moment to disconnect
It’s probably unlikely you work for a company that doesn’t expect you to be on all the time. In today’s day and age, where everyone is always connected to the world, it’s usually expected. That being said, one of the best things you can do is disconnect. If you’re feeling burned out or overwhelmed after work, turn off your email on your phone for a few hours. Let’s be honest — decompressing after a long day is impossible when you’re picking up your phone every five minutes to see if you have a new email. Disconnecting is a great way to recharge.
2. It’s called PTO for a reason
Sometimes taking a night off isn’t enough. We all need solid breaks from time to time. If it’s taking a vacation, a mental health day, or maybe even completing a chore you’ve been putting off — ask for time off. There’s a reason your PTO is there, and you should take full advantage. While the potential mass of emails you’ll have to come back to may be intimidating, everyone will survive without you there for a day or several.
3. Don’t be scared to ask for help
Don’t let your ego get in the way. It’s challenging, especially when you want to show your employer you’re more than capable of handling your responsibilities. We all need help sometimes. We likely don’t want to look like we can’t handle a project or bother someone, but the reality is that you’re probably better off asking for help than getting behind or not meeting your employer’s expectations. Make sure to speak up and express what you need from your employer or what you’re struggling with. They’ll likely appreciate and respect your honesty.
4. Sometimes you need to say “no”
Balance is key in the workplace and extracurricular activities. This was the most challenging thing for me to learn and implement. We’re human, and we want people to like us and we want to show up for them. It’s only intuitive that we say yes. Every time someone asked me to be part of something or join a committee, I feared saying no. The thoughts came creeping in — What if I miss out on an opportunity? What if they no longer ask me?
But deciding what was most important to me and what I valued putting my time and energy toward ultimately helped me decide when to say no. It was scary, and if we’re being real, sometimes I didn’t get asked again, and sometimes I did. Although I struggled at first, I quickly noticed how I better-balanced everything.
5. Don’t forget: It’s your livelihood
Salary is a tricky subject, and one I don’t think anyone actually enjoys discussing. I’m always surprised to hear people struggling to address that they should be earning more, yet don’t speak up about it. But your salary is your livelihood. It doesn’t matter if you love your job or not; at the end of the day, you should be paid what you’re worth. If you can’t pay your bills or you feel you’re not getting paid appropriately for the work you’re doing, it can only make life more stressful and you can quickly become disheartened. Do your research, find your position’s market value, come to the table with what you’ve accomplished and what you bring to the organization then confidently have that conversation.
6. More responsibilities?
It’s likely you eventually get a promotion, or maybe someone leaves your company and you are taking on additional work. It’s only fair you receive something in return for the additional work you’re completing.
Years ago, my supervisor left and I was taking on new responsibilities in my role. The reality is, that organization would have likely never given me any compensation for taking on the additional responsibilities if I hadn’t spoken up. I was terrified, but I sent an email requesting a meeting with our not-so-approachable board chair. He was anything but annoyed and respected my initiative. I came with a list of things I accomplished and also noted the additional responsibilities I performed. I left not only with a title more fitting for my role, but also a raise.
Katelyn Gainer is a freelance communications professional living in Cleveland. She believes that transparency and conversations around career challenges and growth are essential for empowering yourself and others. When she’s not working on her current blog post or planning an event, she’s hanging out with her dog Patsy or planning her next adventure.
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