Written by Melissa Anzman

reaching for star

Impatience is a virtue… said the overly ambitious employee with their eyes set on their next move. Ambition is a great characteristic to have, especially early on in your career. It will help you stay on track, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and keep you far away from the dreaded work complacency bug.

But while you are busy being ambitious, you tend to miss important lessons and skillsets around you. Ambition changes your focus forward – to what’s next, blurring out what is.

I know the narrowing of focus first-hand. I spent the first seven (that’s generous) years of my career so overly ambitious that I missed critical opportunities that would have propelled my career forward even faster.

I ignored the small things, the lessons, the connections, and the work.

My ambition scared people. My bosses felt threatened; their bosses didn’t know what to do with me; my peers didn’t want to be on the same team as me because I was too intense; and so on.

Only as I look back can I see how the approach I took wasn’t the best one, it wasn’t the most efficient one to move up. Learn from my seven-year ambition cloud.

How to Stop Being Overly Ambitious and Still Move Up

Create a Clear Map of What You Need to Learn in Each Role

For every job you take or create, you need to go into it with a clear set of skills and knowledge that you want to learn from the position. You shouldn’t see a role only as a bump in salary, a higher title, or the next stop on the promotion chain.

Each job can teach you something – usually it’s a lot of somethings. But if you are only worried about what’s next, the same lessons will keep hitting you in the head.

Use the roles that you are given, the projects that are handed to you, the annoying coworkers or boss who just doesn’t “get it,” to create your learning plan. Be specific and think outside of your everyday role. “Hard skills” are great – learning a program, how to process something, etc., but also focus on the “softer skills” – interpersonal communications, how to change perceptions, creating your work persona, and so on.

These skills should absolutely be part of what you will need to be successful at the next level, but here’s the catch: until you have learned each and every one of them, the next level shouldn’t be a second thought. Your map will get you there when you focus on your needed skills while doing the job you are in.

Fully Understand Your Why

I talk about “the why” a lot when it comes to your career – in general and in specifics. Understanding “the why” for you, will help you stay ambitious, but also keep it in check. If you know why moving up, getting promoted, or focusing on ruling the world is so important to you, you will be able to constantly remind yourself and work towards something specific.

One of my own worries when I was overly ambitious was that if I took my eye off the prize, I wouldn’t make it to the next level. It took growing up (ugh – how old-sounding is that?) and realizing that I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow with a personality transplant. I will still be motivated, focused, driven, ambitious, and so on – even if my immediate focus was on the present.

I had no “why” at the time. My ambition was solely focused on moving up, earning more money, and proving the proverbial “someone” wrong. I’m still not sure who that someone is, but I digress.

Create your why. Not your parents why; not your friends why; not the why you think you should have. Be true in why your ambition is so important to you, and that truth will keep you moving in the right direction.

Ambition Isn’t the Same for Everyone

Drive and ambition shows up differently for people. You may be externally ambitious, in that everyone knows what you’re seeking, while your cube-mate may be thinking the same thing but never express that out loud.

Your ambition belongs to you. Don’t judge someone else for “not being as ambitious” as you or for being ok with the position they are in. Maybe they have mastered the above two points and are moving along with their career stealthily; or maybe they are ambitious in a different way.

The point is, like religion and politics, ambition is off-limits in the work environment (ok, maybe that’s my work utopia world, but you get my point). Focus on your own growth, development, learning, and path – not what others are or are not doing to help you get there.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
How has your ambition helped or hurt your career path? 

melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Yourself.co where she helps high performers launch their career, business + brand to the next level, make an impact in the lives of others, and earn more income. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job, and the host of the Launch Yourself Podcast. Follow her @MellyMelAnz.

Written by Marisol Dahl

As Willy Wonka once said, “Time is a precious thing. Never waste it.” Time for Leadership

But this is so much easier said than done, right? In a world of endless distractions and never-ending to-do lists, how do we harness the time, energy and leadership skills to attain the results we really want?

Pierre Khawand’s new book Time for Leadership: The Accomplishing More in Less Time, Less Effort, and Less Stress Leadership Journey is all about looking at leadership in a totally revolutionized way. Khawand recognizes the recent paradigm shift in the concept of leadership and what that means for you and your career.

Leadership is no longer considered something you are simply born with–your leadership skills can grow and develop with experience and sincere effort. Leadership is also not just for those on top. It is needed at all levels, whether you’re the CEO, a front-line employee, or somewhere in between. Finally, this new age of leadership requires a healthy balance of leading and following, knowing when to step up to the plate or when to back down and let others take the wheel.

Khawand and his company People-OntheGo are devoted to helping people use time efficiently, take control of the technological world and tap into their leadership potential. Time for Leadership compiles all the new game-changing models from some of the top minds in leadership. Khawand’s approach is all about having leadership “broken down into digestible and practical behaviors” that we can implement immediately and effectively in our daily lives.

Some quotes that really got me revved up:

On focusing on strengths:

When we focus on people’s strengths, they gain confidence, they get engaged, and they produce great outcomes, and in doing so, they are more likely to overcome their weaknesses.

On deltas and weak links:

80% of our results come from 20% of our effort.

Most of what we accomplish comes from certain activities that are closely connected to our desired results. The link between these activities and these results is strong. We refer to these activities as Deltas. And many of the other activities that we perform don’t generate much result. The link between these activities and the desired results is weak. We refer to these activities as Weak Links.

Before engaging in any activity, gigantic or minuscule, ask the leadership question: Is this activity a Delta or a Weak Link? This is the leadership mindset.

On creativity, in Daniel Guillory’s chapter:

To be truly creative, be prepared to have a thick skin. The reason for this goes to Picasso’s famous quote, “Creativity is first of all an act of destruction.” A creative act changes the way we do or view something–and by definition, most human beings do not embrace change.

The ability to be truly creative in an area is directly proportional to the extent of your base of knowledge about that area. For example, the creative jump that my seven-year-old son can make in terms of his paintings would not compare to the kind of creative jump that someone like Claude Monet could make, who studied for years and years.


We are so excited to be giving away a copy of Time for Leadership by Pierre Khawand as well as a free seat in People-OntheGo’s upcoming program the Accomplishing More Leadership Program to five lucky Life After College readers!

To enter to win answer the following question in the comments by Friday, April 18th. We will pick winners via Random.org and email to let you know!

Comment to be Entered to Win:

How do you demonstrate leadership in your own everyday life?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol DahlMarisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, she is interested in pursuing a career in education and child advocacy. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction and volunteering in her community. She can be reached at marisoldahl [at] gmail.com and on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

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