Ever since I became a LinkedIn Premium Member, I was included in the Premium Member Career Group. The group seems to be a place where people can post questions, thoughts, and ideas for broad consumption, engagement, and perhaps most important: advice. What seems to have particularly caught my attention about this group is the amount of email updates I get on the latest posts to the community—especially from people who are curious about whether they should add color to their resume or if it’s still customary to send a thank you note after an interview. Another interesting post I noticed was from someone asking about how to address the issue of being told they’re too smart for a position. I get that the career group was intended to be a place for people to discuss all sorts of career-related topics, but where did we get this idea that we had to ask for permission all the time or seek validation? And from people we don’t even know much less. I see this kind of thing happen every day in the workplace. I work for a bureaucratic organization, so it’s probably no surprise that people always want to ask for permission. However, in a digital age where information is at our fingertips and almost anything is even more possible than it was 5 or 10 years ago, why do we feel the need to have to ask? You should be embarrassed to ask a question that could be easily researched online or made possible just by taking action.
If it makes sense to you, just do it.
You’ll find sooner or later whether the thing you were on the sidelines about doing and decided to take action on was right. If you’re lucky enough to have friends and colleagues like mine, they’ll probably tell you too. Truth is, many of the jobs I held in government would have been your typical administrative role if it wasn’t for me doing what I thought was more challenging (interesting) or made more sense. I didn’t ask for permission—unless what I wanted to do required more money; even then, I exhausted all other options before making a business case for why I needed more resources. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t, but I gained some valuable risk-taking experience, picked up new skills in negotiation, and brought greater value to the work I was tasked with supporting.
There’s always going to be someone that tells you, “No.”
Asking for permission limits your possibilities and increases the chances of someone telling you no. I don’t have the research or statistics to back this claim, but I’m willing to venture to say that it’s highly probable. You’ll never realize your full potential if you wait around for someone to tell you that it’s okay. This past year I’ve posted more content online than I have ever posted in the last four years that I started taking writing more seriously. Not just on LinkedIn, but on Medium too. Much of it probably goes on unread or tossed aside and forgotten, but I’ve never asked for permission to write or flood someone’s newsfeed. I do it because eventually I’m going to get better. I’m going to find what works and stick with it. I could read all the stuff in cyberspace that tells me I should add more pictures, write longer pieces, include graphics to support my arguments, or write things that matter. But I’m not trying to appeal to everyone. Most often, I’m ranting anyway. However, if I only had one reader or follower, I’d be happy to write to them. I write because I want to. It makes sense to me. My ideas may not have much weight now, but I’m still developing them. That’s what writing allows me to do.
Everyone is going to have an opinion.
If I sought permission every time I wanted to publish an article or do something different, I would most likely get a resounding, “no” or perhaps some lecture on what would be appropriate for a professional networking site like LinkedIn. My goal isn’t to wow a potential employer or provide insight on the latest investment or marketing strategies. There’s already enough of that going around online. It’s to share my thoughts and ideas and use the platform as an opportunity to showcase my work. I could write in a journal and tuck it away in my desk drawer, but why? We’re living in the 21st century. We should embrace it, the technology, and do what we think makes sense to us. Life’s too short to be stopping to ask for permission and seek validation. Go at it! If you crash and burn, at least you gave it the old college try and hopefully learned some valuable lesson. You’ll also have stories to share.
If you’re still here looking for an answer, I give you permission to stand out and add color to your resume because traditional resumes are so bland and overrated. Go ahead and send that thank you note after your interview because no one bothers to write personalized letters anymore. Start your own darn business if an employer tells you that you’re too smart for a position. Whatever you do, just stop asking for permission. Do what makes sense. Be a game-changer. Make a lot of noise. You have but one life to live. Your career is just a small part of it.