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Act As If

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When I worked in sales we lived by the motto to “act as if” you were the level above your pay-grade. If you were a sales rep, “act as if” you were an assistant manager; if you were an assistant manager, “act as if” you were a branch manager; and so on. It’s an idea that has stuck with me to this day.

As we muddle our way through the entry to mid-level professional world, it is tough to know exactly what we are supposed to do in order to move up. Many careers don’t have a clear path outlined for us and fewer still have the directions spelled out to get down the path. Many of us want to advance, take on more responsibility and receive the perks and benefits that go along with it. The challenge is how to figure out the finesse and nuances of climbing that ladder.

This is where “act as if” comes in. Who are the professionals that have proven their success at the level above you? By the way, no matter how successful you think they might or might not be, they had to have gotten at least something right to earn the right to be at that level. What is it exactly that they got right? Notice everything about them, by the way. How do they dress for work? How early do they start working and how late do they finish? With whom in and out of the company or organization are they spending most of their time?

Now that you have identified some role models, ask yourself, how can I change my day to day working style to “act as if” you are already at their level? What are the important projects and tasks that are the key to my future success? What would I be doing differently if today I were promoted to that next level?

Of course, if you are completely unsure on how to get started with all of this, it is completely fine to reach out for help. Author and entrepreneur Jason Seiden suggests that this is how you “Make Your Own Breaks” in his book How to Self Destruct, Making the Least of What's Left of Your Career.

Look up that role model of yours in the company directory. Shoot them an e-mail, call them or just ask next time you bump into each other in the elevator. Tell this person you admire the work they’re doing and would love to learn more about how they have found success at the organization. Offer to buy a cup of coffee sometime so that you can pick their brain. People love free coffee and giving their opinion, so it will be hard for your role model to say no.

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