I used to work with a leading national fellowship of social impact designers helping fellows and candidates craft their stories to give powerful presentations. A lot of the work I did was to help people describe their stories differently—to project themselves as the candidate for the role they wanted.
If you’ve ever felt really stuck at your job—overeducated for the kind of work you’re doing—you’re not alone. You might be doing low-level work. Perhaps you’re officially a manager, but you feel stuck doing mundane work and don't have much control over your work. You feel severely undervalued at work and like your salary is minuscule. It might feel like you’ll be in “peon purgatory” forever, waiting for somebody to retire in order to move up.
I know it can be hard to wonder if you’re ever going to be promoted when there’s no room for growth at your organization…. But you feel stuck because you don't know how you’re ever going to get hired to do higher-level work when your current job doesn’t give you a chance to do any!
It is totally possible to break out of that self-sustaining cycle of being stuck and land a leadership role even if you’ve only been a manager or haven’t had an official leadership title before. And when you do, you can land a job where you’re calling the shots, can work with an amazing team, and can increase—or even double—your salary.
The key is to focus on your leadership experience and potential in your job apps…. Even if you’re not *feeling it* in the day-to-day in your job.
Here's what I recommend based on what I learned with that national fellowship:
- Identify places in your current job where you’re using strategic thinking skills and bringing in innovative ideas, even if they are limited in scope. You work 35 - 40 hours a week. You can’t talk about *everything* you do. You’ve got to curate! So curate the stories that support the role you want. That’s what goes into your cover letter.
- Practice describing yourself this way as if you were answering interview questions. Challenge yourself to respond to every question with a more strategic, leadership frame of mind rather than an executor’s frame of mind.
- Research the organizations you are applying for and understand their strategic priorities. What core mission or service do they need to do well? How could your role impact that job-to-done? Bring 2-3 ideas to discuss in your interview. This shows that you can already think at that strategic level and the wheels of your brain are already turning on their organization.
- Pick someone you know who embodies the leadership qualities you want to have and imagine you are them as you write your cover letter and in preparation for your interviews.
I know someone who used these tips to move from a manager to director role…. And she actually doubled her salary! (Plus, more importantly, she ended up with a job that made her feel excited about work again.)
They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have… If you’re stuck in a role that is not using your gifts, you don’t have to stay there and wait to be picked! You can pick yourself.