This article comes from Ramon Greenwood, an Ivy Exec Contributor.
Ambition, a sanctified ideal in the folklore of career success, is nothing more than a word until it is turned in to results by commitment, willingness to learn and hard work.
It may be embraced or ignored; used or abused. It can even become an excuse for a failed career path. It all depends on how it is employed.
Dreaming and talking about what you want to achieve is not true ambition. What’s required is knowing your goals, the path to reach them and doing what it takes make the trip. The key is to combine ambition, which means desire, with initiative, which means action.
There are lessons to be learned from Harry
He had been on his job for less than a year, and he was already restless and frustrated by what he considered the lack of progress. “I am ambitious,” he told everyone who would listen to his complaining. “I will be a success, but I’ll never make it doing little insignificant things day in and day out. I could do a lot more; they just won’t give me a chance.”
Harry’s constant moaning and groaning was beginning to poison the atmosphere for the entire staff.
Harry Had Potential, But…
At Harry’s performance review, Joe, his boss, complimented him for the work he was doing. Harry ignored the positives of his review and started to argue his case for a promotion. The meeting became confrontational.
“I am still doing the same old things,” Harry declared. “I know I’m paid less than the others in the department. It’s just not fair.”
“Harry, you have been with us for only eleven months,” Joe replied. “You are the newest salesman; everyone else has been here at least three years. They’ve worked their way up the ladder.
“As I told you, you have made reasonably good progress, but, let’s face it, you are still short on experience. Give it a little time.”
Joe complimented Harry again and went on to suggest that his work habits needed some improvement.
“Harry, you are late most mornings, and you are out of here right at five o’clock. I think your performance would be improved if you would devote time at night and on weekends to learning more about your job.”
“You are not being fair,” Harry bristled. “I work the hours you pay me for. Sure, I know you and the others stay late, but I don’t have anything to do; and besides, as I’ve told you, I am not married to this company. You pay me and I will show you what I can do.”
Joe saw the discussion was dead-ending, but he still believed Harry had potential. He made what he thought was a fair offer.
“You need to speed up your learning curve. I want you to work with Bill Davis as his assistant. You will gain a lot from his experience. We’ll also provide you with some special training. However, I can’t give you a raise now, since our budgets are frozen; but if you do as well as I know you can, I promise you’ll get an increase in three months.”
“That’s not fair,” Harry charged. “Everyone in the department knows Bill is past his prime. He is worn out. I would be running his errands. I don’t think that is much of a promotion, certainly not what I deserve.”
Harry never recovered from that discussion in the eyes of his supervisor and the department head. He was fired within a few months.
Career Tip: The lesson here is simple: ambitions are not realized without positive action.
For more advice on how to accelerate your career during tough times participate in Ramon Greenwood’s widely read Common Sense At Work Blog His e-book, How To Get The Pay Raise You’ve Earned is available from Amazon.