Dear Career Coach,
Right now I have a job that I really like, but a year ago my small company was bought by a much larger company. My job changed only slightly which is great, but now I have my first annual review coming up and I’m scared!
The expectation is that I am supposed to come to the meeting with goals for myself but the only goal I really have is to keep doing my job excellently, as I have been. I don’t want to climb the corporate ladder, get a promotion, or be a manager/leader. That’s one of the things I liked about my job before. The new company rewards people who are very ambitious, but that isn’t me.
Can you help me navigate this conversation so I say the right things in my one-on-one meeting so that I can get a raise and continue doing the work I love without pressure to do more?
Happy Where I Am
Dear Happy Where I Am,
First, it’s great that you know what you want because, for most of our clients, that’s half the battle. It’s important that you do not fall into the trap of taking something just because it’s offered to you. Sometimes people feel obligated to say yes to things they don’t really want. Being grounded in what you want, in the way you want to work, is a great position to be in, especially because it’s clear that you still want to add a lot of value to your company.
Second, you’ve already set yourself up for success by not jumping ship during the change. Many people find that kind of organizational shift very difficult. By sticking it out, you’ve already built up some helpful professional capital.
These are all important points to mention because it adds value and context to the one-on-one conversation you are going to have with your boss. You want to communicate clearly that while you don’t want to continue moving up the corporate ladder, you do really care and are motivated to continue doing a great job at your current level. It’s also important to maintain your own boundaries without knocking the corporate culture that rewards ambition.
Where many people struggle is that they try to get their boss to see the value in what they want for themselves. Rather, you should position the conversation to help your boss see how what you want is a value for them.
What does that look like? Well, because you are not looking to climb the ladder, you won’t be competitive or political with your colleagues, and that does not mean that you don’t care about the company or that you won’t do your very best work.
There is an assumption that ambition drives quality of performance. That may be true for some, but lack of upward ambition does not mean that you are not doing the best job possible. In fact, by remaining committed to your role, you will have the opportunity to continually hone your work. You will still have opportunities to improve, you will take feedback, and you’ll find better processes.
Your Happy Spectacular Coach
Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).