This is the eighteenth piece in our twenty-part series on how to accelerate your career in your twenties and this time we’re talking about ambition. Picturing where you’d like to see yourself a decade down the line can be a real motivator, particularly during those stressful periods when your workload is high. We all have things that we strive for, and it’s a good idea to start laying the groundwork for those goals early in your career. In fact, laying that groundwork can even help with your day-to-day performance at work.
Using ambition to set milestones and goals
There’s a good chance the company you work for has a structured system in place to help you monitor your progress. You probably have targets you’re encouraged to hit and milestones you should reach in order to make yourself eligible for promotions. That’s good, but it’s also good to use your ambition to set your own, personal milestones. Perhaps you’d like to own a home, afford a new car or become a team leader or manager. Achieving these goals will require discipline and hard work and there’s nothing wrong with setting yourself milestones for achieving them. In fact, you’ll often find that by aiming for your personal goals and objectives, you’ll inadvertently achieve the ones that are set by your employer, just through sheer hard work and commitment.
Learn to temper your ambition
There’s no doubt that ambition is good, but don’t let it dominate your outlook. Being ambitious can be a signal to others in the company that you’re willing to take on more responsibility and climb the ranks, but too much ambition can lead to poor decision making and cloud your judgement in high-pressure circumstances. You want your employers to know that you’re ambitious and willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, but you also want them to think of you as a safe pair of hands in a crisis. In other words, don’t let your ambition make you reckless or take unnecessary risks.
Don’t be afraid to eye up that promotion
If everything is going well at work and you’ve received good feedback on your performance, there’s nothing wrong with pushing for that promotion you’ve been thinking about. There’s often a time and a place to bring up these things, such as appraisal meetings with your manager or conversations with your mentor. You should make it clear in a professional and courteous way that you’re interested in taking on more responsibility, perhaps even mentioning the role you had in mind. Many organisations would far rather promote from within than bring in outside talent, so making yourself a viable candidate and putting yourself on the radar can only be a good thing. Even if you don’t get the position, it will demonstrate your ambition and lay the groundwork for any future opportunities.
Ambition is a valuable tool for a twenty-something. It can spur you on when the going gets tough and help you manage and organise your career. However, it’s important to be mindful of your ambition and put it to good use without taking too many risks. Remember this, and your ambition will serve you well.