Until now you may have put all your stock in career milestones that were defined by bosses and performance evaluations or balanced scorecards. Forget about that for a moment and start to think about the best milestones to celebrate at work.
These are not “great milestones” but instead a collection of all the small milestones that we must collect throughout our career (which eventually give us the power to achieve great milestones).
1. Receiving praise for the first time
The first time you receive praise from a customer or client for a job well done is one of the best feelings in the world. This is not the typical praise of someone saying, “Thank you” but instead the praise that comes with a customer going out of their way to show appreciation.
For example, if a client you helped throughout the year and almost forgot about, suddenly mails you a bottle of champagne around Christmas time with a thank you note. Being remembered for your service and praised for your hard work feels amazing, no matter what your career level is.
2. The first time you create and execute a 30-day goal
It is easy to take any job to get paid to “do something”. But when you get to a management position and must make plans, set goals, and measure success, things become a little tricky. You now have to manage people, tasks, time, metrics etc. The skill of executing plans and reaching goals does not come naturally.
So, the first time you do it...you need to celebrate. This is a type of milestone you will need to repeat hundreds of times throughout your career.
3. Speaking up about what you know
The first time you speak up at work feels like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. It is not easy to be someone who speaks up. Some will tell you to shut up. Some will call you a “know-it-all”. Some will call you arrogant. Others will think you are speaking out of place. And a small, important fraction of the people will see why speaking up was a helpful, wise decision.
This is a milestone because you discover the accountability of “claiming to know something”. People will always challenge you if you speak up about something. But learning how to do it is an important milestone on the path to becoming a leader.
4. When you are asked for advice
In life, you are pretty much told what to do until you get old enough to live and work on your own. It seems like the first quarter of your life is all about people giving you advice.
So, on that day when people come to you at work and ask for advice, it is a milestone that lets you know, “I know enough to help someone do something”. It is a great feeling, especially when the person who asks you for advice is completely lost and you just saved him or her from a disaster.
We all like to feel important for what we know and being asked for advice is a validation of our belief system, “I know more than most people give me credit for”.
5. The first time you solve a problem with emotional intelligence
Not all problems at work have to do with “work”. People have feelings and personalities that can conflict with other colleagues and prevent tasks from being completed.
But when you reach the milestone when you solve such a problem with “emotional intelligence”, it certainly feels like you have crossed over into new career territory. You discover there is a new skill you can use on the job and in your personal life. After reaching this milestone, the ability to manage teams and people seems 100 times easier.
In today’s working world, there is a greater demand for emotional intelligence. We live in a time when everyone wants their feelings considered and it is very easy to offend someone. Having the ability to solve problems with “EQ” makes a person a valuable asset to a company.
6. Learning how to work smarter not harder
This is a huge milestone that goes unseen by most. Basically, this is a milestone where you find yourself getting things done quickly, effectively, and with less energy or time spent. Being able to work smarter means knowing what not to waste time on. It means you know how to stay productive and you do not break a sweat in the process.
Typically, those who work smarter are liberated from working harder by learning about technology and all the tools out there invented to make work a bit easier. This requires education and staying up to date on changing trends in the workplace used to save time and increase productivity.
7. The first time you are assertive...and it works in your favor
If you dislike confrontation or hate telling people what to do, the first time you are assertive in the workplace may feel like you just climbed Mount Everest in your bare feet.
Some people have an easy time being assertive and most of the time, yes, these people are dismissed as being “jerks”. So, if you are at work and you see something bad is about to happen, but you know the only way to stop it is by being assertive...and you do it...this is an almost unforgettable, life-changing experience.
For example, true story
A business analyst is helping with a Securities Exchange Commission audit on Wall Street and finds a technical issue with a company software that is affecting compliance with a state law. If he keeps quiet, no big deal. He did not build the software. He would not get blamed. But instead, he tells the vice president and operations director about it and to his dismay...they tell him, “It is not your job to worry about this.”
So, he contacts the quality assurance team and asserts that he knows this is a serious problem and it will affect audits. Finally, someone listens to him! And as it turns out, the QA team would have been blamed for the compliance issue during the audit, so they fix the issue immediately.
The audit results come back and the office scores 100%. The QA team thanks the vice president and operations director for “having the business analyst bring it to their attention”. Word gets around as to what really happened. Within a year, that business analyst is promoted to operations director of another office.
Being assertive with principle is progress. Being assertive without a cause just creates chaos.
8. The first time you speak in public
If you plan to be the next Jeff Bezos, you had better get this milestone out of the way quickly. One day, people will want to hear about how you achieved your goals and grew your company.
Speaking in front of others is not always easy but when you learn the art of public speaking to show you are a leader, you have definitely reached a milestone that will help you forever.
The ability to speak in public without fear is a skill the most famous leaders of all time possess or possessed. The demand for this skill has grown over the years. It seems like we all have to learn how to be our own political representatives in a global economy!