Sometimes you need to raise your hand to be noticed
ONCE upon a time, there was an unconscious, parochial urge to be regarded as no better than the next person, a need to keep your achievements close and your ambitions closer. To make sure you don't draw attention to yourself: sure that would only be boasting.
Roy Keane famously took issue with Alex Ferguson when he praised his (remarkable) contribution in the 1999 Champions League semi-final. Keane downplayed it entirely, saying it was “like praising the postman for delivering letters”. Not quite Roy, it actually was something special.
Unfortunately, for a certain generation it's been one of our less desirable traits in this part of the world: ingrained in our DNA, handed down from generation to generation. The desire never to be ‘that' person who people talk about in terms of: ‘She thinks she is somebody' or “he's got ideas way above his station”. Mostly muttered in the confines of a pub, or over a cup of tea, well away from the subject themselves. False modesty was our only armour then: ‘ah sure I didn't do anything”, “this old thing? I just threw it on”.
Now that's flipped. The Millennials and Generation Z are accused of worshipping online ‘social influencers' (me neither) and reality stars, who have become household names, dripping with money and fame, typically through negligible effort. They think; why not me? Hard work and talent are considered irrelevancies.
Entitlement is pervasive, and don't you dare tell me I need to improve or I'm not good enough. Worse still (deep intake of breath) don't say I actually failed at something (perhaps at this stage we should consider the words of Carl Saga who noted “the universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition”, indeed it “seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent”….)
Of course, these are generalisations, caricatures, extremes at either end of a scale. Unfortunately, they often represent a lens through which different generations view each other. In real life however, where 99 per cent of us weigh into work each day without the benefit of a chauffeur or wearing a sackcloth, we fit in somewhere in between those two extremes.
So what to do about it? First up: there is no point keeping quiet about what your ambitions are. You should certainly hope that you have the opportunity for conversations with your line manager about where you see your career going, where you think need to get more experience, how you can learn new skills, where opportunities for your lie within the business etc.
If you don't have those conversations at the minute, then be pro-active and start the conversation yourself. If you think you are particularly good at something, or really enjoy it, then let people know! Sometimes you need to raise your hand to be noticed.
That's not enough in isolation however; all your ambitions need to be wedded to an actual plan. If you see yourself as a senior engineer, head teacher or a production director in 10 years' time then this takes skills, experience and ability. You will need to plot a course to help you achieve these. If you can't do this at work, then find a local college or provider who will be able assist.
Remember, however, that you need to be realistic with your ability, your milestones and your actual time itself. Make sure your progress is measurable, achievable and realistic.
And lastly: there's plenty of room to treat people nice along the way and help them celebrate their own successes and achievements!
:: Barry Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is HR director at Cayan in Belfast