InSights - What you didn't know you didn't know

Don’t Be Smart About Your Career

by Tracey Wik

Conventional HR wisdom asserts that in order to get ahead, you should create Specific Measurable Results—the more specific the better. I assert this could be the worst career advice, and following this flawed conventional wisdom could cost you more than you gain.

Most everyone working today understands the moniker S.M.A.R.T—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. S.M.A.R.T goals are the scorecard by which most organizations determine who gets what–the win/loss ratio of perks, promotions and compensation.

For those of you who make your living managing performance for your organizations, I hope you have not spontaneously combusted at your desk, not yet anyway. My reasoning for this is not to instill magical thinking in the workplace. Quite the opposite. I invite employees to take a new level of responsibility for advocating on behalf of their own careers, and in order to do that effectively, employees need objective, often third party data. It is the responsibility of the employee, not the manager, to tell the performance story. It is not enough to rely on the processes inherited from corporate S.M.A.R.T or otherwise.

In a former role, my team was responsible for the Performance Management cycle. Twice a year there was flurry of activities; setting objectives and then reviewing performance against the objectives. Each year, we would debate the carrot or stick approach to getting managers to complete the reviews. Each year, we struggled with the quality of what was submitted as “data.”

Each approach – honey or vinegar – had its merit. However, far too often, employees give their power away to their managers by not advocating on their own behalf. Sure, often managers are not having the courageous conversations with their employees about what was working or not working in regards to their performance. It is also as frequent that employees sit back and wait to be recognized for their potential rather than acting as if they are the CEO of their career.

Whether you meet your goals or not, don’t wait to be recognized for other opportunities. In today’s workplace, attainment of goals specific or otherwise is usually the floor not the ceiling. Knowing what other talent you have which can be actualized for the right opportunity is essential. Chances are, your company has access to tools that can help you discover what skills you have now, and what skills you need to develop for the future. Getting specific about your accomplishments is the beginning of the career development discussion, but knowing objectively what your potential is gives you access to what it will take to get there.

Chally can help you understand your potential. Go to for more information.