Back in 2010, when I was working in Telecom, one of my managers gave me a career advice that got imprinted in my mind and over the last decade has resulted in success in my career as well as the career of engineers I work with. I would like to share that tip with you today, which is: Accepting responsibility for my engineering career.
Back then I wasn’t happy with my job. Actually, I hated it. I was an engineer, doing non-engineering work; and that was a disaster. I thought, "I spent so much money getting an engineering degree, and I’m still now using it, even 3 years after graduating from college."
I’m grateful to have had a great boss who felt obligated to tell me this. If she hadn’t told me the truth, I could have continued staying where I was and being miserable. It wasn’t until I heard and accepted the fact that ‘I might never be able to work in a job that I went to school for.’
When I graduated my thesis or focus area was ‘Embedded Programming & Hardware Design’. Three years after and not touching a PCB or any coding at all led to me forgetting my programming skills and falling behind the Technology Growth curve.
Responsibility tends to be a solemn word in our society. We assume that we must have made some grave error to accept responsibility for an action. Yet to be successful in life and career, we must assume responsibility for what we have done and what we have not. Everyone from Einstein to Sophocles understood the importance of taking responsibility.
In my situation, I had to accept that it’s a bit too late to go back to three years ago, because the skills that mattered a lot back then for employers, no longer does. I had to evaluate exactly what I had learned and actually have done from graduation and set new career goals based on those work experiences.
This is so difficult, especially because it feels like you’re throwing a part of your life away and won’t ever get it back. Your mind will start playing games with you and the voice in your head will keep reminding you of the consequences of change.
Until when we learn how to integrate responsibility into our lives, we build our self-esteem. Disciplining ourselves to do the right things, regardless of how difficult, is the direct path to developing self-confidence and feelings of satisfaction.
You Cannot Change the World
You can only change yourself. We as human beings love passing on the blame to others. When something goes wrong, we immediately try to point the finger at everyone else except ourselves. Yet when we take this kind of action, we lose control over the situations.
Once I accepted the facts in my life and career, I was able to keep my focus on the future and working on actions that created new outcomes and positive results. That’s how I ended up changing my career.
And something interesting happened. Every new manager I had from there onwards treated with differently. I got so much respect from them. I had a sense of purpose and communicated with others, including my boss, with so much more clarity.
In order to change the world, we must change ourselves first. We’re ought to be the change we want to see in the world. If we want others to begin treating us with kindness and respect in our office or place of work, we must first be kind to everyone we meet and while interacting with them it’s best to be clear and content with our plans and actions. When others see the benefits of your change, they will want to change themselves too. When you’re different, people will begin to treat you differently.
Accepting Responsibility Doesn't Mean You're Wrong
We have the misconception that if we take responsibility for a situation, it means we are to blame. Yet taking responsibility doesn't mean we are the wrongdoers.
If you see someone slacking off at the office, you don't pick up the slack because you were the one at fault. You pick up the slack because it's the right thing to do for your team and company. You don't need to be the one at fault to accept the responsibility for the faulty actions.
I highly recommend reading a book by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin, called Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Here are three Leadership Principles discussed in the book:
-Leaders don’t blame the team for mistakes or failure.
-Leaders instill ‘belief of winning’ in the team members.
-Leaders take the most difficult job on the tasks list.
Analyze Your Job Choices
Make sure you understand that ‘responsibility’ and ‘blame’ are two different things. Sometimes we are at fault and have no idea; we need to step back from a situation to analyze it and find a solution.
Think back to a few times when something didn't go right in your life or on a job assignment. What could you have done differently to diffuse the situation?
Also, think back to a time you should have said ‘No’ to a job assignment but you did. What would have happened if you had said ‘No’.
Everyone Makes Mistakes
No one is immune to making mistakes. This one of the first rules of Judy Smith, the real-life crisis manager portrayed in the TV show, Scandal. The reason she can help people who society rejects is that she knows everyone makes mistakes. Once they have admitted their mistake, she can help them.
Admitting that everyone makes mistakes can help you learn to accept responsibility for yours. The easier and quicker you can forgive yourself, the easier it will be to accept responsibility and the faster to move on.