I recently spent two months working with a career coach, Rebecca Fraser-Thill of the Pivot coaching team.
Every two weeks, Fraser-Thill and I would hop on the phone to discuss my goals, my plans for getting there, and my progress on the challenges she assigned me.
When I think back on the most important takeaways from my coaching experience, one sentence from our very first phone call stands out.
Some background: I told Fraser-Thill that I’d eventually like to become a senior reporter at Business Insider. She asked me how I’d be feeling once I achieved that goal — I said I’d be more confident that I was the right person to be tackling certain stories and interviews.
A few minutes later, Fraser-Thill asked me what milestones I’d need to achieve in order to earn the senior reporter title. I said I’d need to take more initiative when it comes to setting up interviews.
Fraser-Thill reflected back everything I’d said in one neat sentence: “If you were in the senior reporter role, you’d feel empowered and be more confident to reach out to people for interviews — but that’s exactly what you’re saying has to happen to get there.”
“I’m not a full believer in ‘fake it till you make it,” she added, “but there’s also a the piece of sometimes we do have to act as if.”
In other words: I’d been waiting until someone officially appointed me a senior reporter to take on more responsibility. But no one would even think about giving me that title unless I showed I was capable of taking on more responsibility.
Once Fraser-Thill made this connection explicit, we were able to dig deeper into what taking initiative on stories and interviews would look like. One example: Instead of waiting around for a tip from my editor or a coworker, I’d pursue big-name sources and popular book authors myself.
Yet I find the general advice to “act as if” really powerful. It probably applies no matter what industry you work in: Don’t wait around for a title bump to show your full potential, or to push yourself to do more than you think you’re capable of.