Wisdom//

Boss Up: How to Get Out of the Passenger Seat

Here's how you can move up the ladder.

Courtesy of Creativa Images / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Creativa Images / Shutterstock

The driver seat was elusive to me for many years. In my early years, I was dependent on the counsel of wise elders to chart my course. I felt passionate about wanting to be a teacher. I shared the experience with my mother, who provided counsel to choose a more lucrative path. I listened and floundered to find this lucrative path, which, by the way, I didn’t have any examples of other than salary.

When I looked to my siblings, I determined a secretarial path seemed viable, despite securing a D in my first semester of typing. I was determined and increased my speed significantly and picked up the new skill of stenography. I was so good that I got a monetary award for it.

This was not my definitive path, because I became influenced by a high school teacher who put the seeds of college as a possibility in my mind. Scared, I proceeded with caution, applying to two colleges for validation of my worth. To my surprise, I was accepted to both, and this would change my life forever.

My next excuse for remaining in the passenger seat was in service of tradition. When I say tradition, I mean it in the sense that things should unfold the way they are expected to, or so I thought. My expectation was that the reward associated with a college degree was a job in said area of expertise. That was not to be the case for my story.

I got a degree in Marketing with a concentration in Retail Management. In my mind, I would travel the world as a clothing buyer. Rejection after rejection appeared, and soon the disillusionment was too much to bear, so I accepted a job as a secretary. You can imagine my state of mind, especially since I had worked so hard to escape that path. But lucrative it was in those days.

After one year, I was able to secure a job as a customer service representative at a financial services company. At last, I had arrived – or so I thought. I didn’t have a clear plan, so I was willing to take what was offered to me. And that is how my career progressed for many years. With a focus on doing a good job and reaping steady salary and benefits.

Pretty soon, that goal was forgotten, until one day I woke up and wondered, “How did I get to where I am in my career?” The truth was, I had allowed myself to be a passenger for so long, I wasn’t clear what was next for me.

That realization yielded a much-needed sabbatical from the workplace. It provided an opportunity to stop and reflect on what would make me happy. And guess what: It was a new career. A new career in coaching that I had no idea how to bring to fruition, and so I returned to my passenger lifestyle.

Lack of knowledge was another excuse that I tried on for size. It was the excuse that said, “It’s safer to return to the passenger seat.” However, something was different this time around. I had an inkling that my passenger status would be changing in the near term. And change it did.

To find your way to your driver seat, I suggest three things.

1) Take a time out to reflect on what your true purpose is.

For me, it required being honest with myself that I was unhappy, even though I had a good job, salary, and benefits. I had a lifestyle that provided travel, entertainment, and other resources, but I simply was unhappy and feeling that I wasn’t living on purpose.

There was a greater calling for me, but I was ignoring it because of many excuses. Take time to listen while saying NO to excuses that threaten to derail you.

2) Find your tribe.

Being around other positive successful people is a necessary antidote for the driver seat. Challenge yourself to build your networking prowess.

For years, I was afraid of networking. I leaned into the excuse of being an introvert. It served me well, but challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone has served me better.

I have intentionally sought out groups that support my vision and bolster my strength in the networking space. Ellevate Network has helped me by providing opportunities to associate with other professional women who I normally wouldn’t cross paths with on a regular basis. They provide meetings, events, and other facilitated opportunities that strengthen my resolve as a driver for my career.

3) Say YES to opportunities that allow you to make driver seat moves.

I have served on volunteer boards that allow me to make strategic and financial decisions. Doing so has served as education for decisions I now have to make as a business owner. If you want to build your resolve in owning your career, take on additional responsibilities that force you to build your driver seat muscles.

Although there are times when drivers sit in the passenger seat, I suggest one maintain strong driver capabilities. We are living in different times. As the times progress, you will find that the need to be a driver is a requirement. Why not start reviewing your current situation and outlining the need for driver behaviors?

Originally published on Ellevate.

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