The system needs your inputs

Make it work for you!

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Consider how a job opening is filled in two different scenarios.

Scenario A

One fine day, a role X opens up at company Y. The HR team gets on the job to find a suitable candidate. They get into the system and look for all the employees with the right fit. They look at the candidates’ experiences, performance appraisals, seniority, etc. Then they call the managers of each of the short-listed candidates to get their feedback and check if the role could be a good fit.

If the managers are unsure about the candidates’ career aspirations, they take the time to talk to the candidates. If they see a good match, they flag it back to HR. HR then gives the final shortlist to the decision maker. The decision maker looks at the list and picks the most suitable candidate based on their profiles. And voila! The position is filled with the best candidate.

Scenario B

One fine day, a role X opens up at company Y. The HR rep, David, is swamped with a whole lot of other tasks, so he parks this one on the side. Days go by. The manager of role X, Marc, calls David to check in. David promises to revert soon. Days go by. Marc now calls David’s boss to raise the urgency. “I really need the person on the ground right now!” The boss tells David to revert with a list of names by the end of day.

Before he leaves for the day at 9pm, David spends 15 minutes to prepare his list of three candidates. He makes his list based on the people who recently reached out to him asking for more responsibility, or people who expressed interest in this specific role. “This way we’ll resolve two issues at the same time.” He emails the list to the decision maker.

The decision maker sees a name on the list of someone he personally knows. “He was recently in the company newsletter for launching a new marketing initiative. He also reached out to me a few days back asking for career advice. This will be a good role to stretch him!”

One scenario is how we hope things work. And one is how they actually work. Can you guess which one is the reality?

Yup, if you guessed Scenario B, you’re right.

Reason # 1 we don’t drive our careers: “I trust the system to work.”

Research shows that women typically hesitate to ask for promotions. And one of the biggest reasons that comes up is:

We trust ‘the system’ to work.

We expect that as long as our bosses like us and we deliver good work, the system will reward us with what we deserve.

But here’s the thing.

Who is the “system”? It’s certainly not a magic box that knows everything and gives out the right answer each time. It’s made of people. People with their own priorities and motivations. People with their own challenges and time constraints.

Plus, even if these people absolutely wanted to do the right thing, they need information to be able to do that. Information about your strengths, your accomplishments and what you’re capable of doing.

And most importantly, information about your aspirations for your career.

Even the ‘system’ needs your clear inputs.

It’s their responsibility to pick the right candidate. But it’s your responsibility to give them the information they need about you to make the right decision.

The system exists, but it doesn’t work by itself. You need to make it work for you.

“Make the system work.” Gasp! That sounds like playing office politics. It’s not. We’re all about playing with integrity. Remember, being genuine and honest is the hallmark of a leader. 

Here’s how to make the system work for you.

  1. Show that you have the qualities to take on the big jobs.

Being liked by our bosses and delivering good quality work – these are not the qualities decision makers look for when picking candidates for important jobs. To be considered for the big roles, you need to show that you have the strengths needed to deliver on those big expectations. For example, if you’re interested in a line management job, show that you can deliver excellent results. That you can manage a team: coach, delegate, inspire strong results, etc. And that you can challenge the status quo and come up with new ways of doing things!

  1. Get decision makers to know you.

No matter how good your work, if people don’t know you, they can’t pick you for the big jobs. So make your work stand out so people notice you. Show people that you think differently. And network with decision makers so they get to know you! We cover networking in another module.

  1. Communicate your career aspirations. Clearly. And persistently.

To get picked for the jobs you want, you need to let decision makers know what your expectations are. And you need to be persistent about it so you’re on the top of their mind the next time an opportunity opens up! We cover this over the course of this module.

And here’s the thing. Depending on where you work, there may not even be a “system”. It may just be people making ad hoc decisions on whom to promote on the go. In these cases, it becomes even more important that you communicate your expectations clearly.

Don’t let the system decide how your career plays out. Make a purposeful and deliberate effort to shape your career for yourself! Take responsibility for it. And drive it to make the impact you want to make in this world! Atta girl!

Coming up next

Tomorrow we’ll see how leaving your expectations unspoken can hurt your career.


  1. The system doesn’t work by itself.

The system is not a magic box. It’s made of people with their own priorities and challenges. For them to make the right decisions for your career, you need to give them the right information about you!

  1. Make the system work for you.

Making the system work for you is not office politics. Show decision makers that you have the qualities to take on the big jobs. Get them to notice you by making your work stand out. And clearly communicate your career aspirations to them.

  1. Do your daily Rekindle routine.

Take charge of your career and drive it where you want it to go!

Today, reflect on whether you’ve trusted the system so far to reward you for your good work. Do you think the system knows enough information about you? What are some things you can do to give the people in the system the right information? Keep taking small steps to move your career in the direction you want to take it! High five!

Good job completing the lesson. We’ll see you here same time tomorrow.
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