The best jobs are the ones where you are learning; the work is not too easy and not too hard. (The Yerkes-Dodson law says that optimum difficulty leads to optimum performance.) So forget looking for a pay increase (what is three percent of your salary going to buy you, really?) and forget a new title (titles only matter if you are going to stick around for twenty years and climb the ladder). Keep your eye on training perks. That’s what really matters. Training can change you, challenge you, set you up for the next great project, and generally make your work more fulfilling.
In an article about office politics, in Fast Company, it becomes clear that office politics is really about jockeying for the good training and good projects. Career coach Marilyn Moats Kennedy says, “Workers today compete for schedules and projects, for money and training. But they rarely compete for power – especially when that means power over others. Instead of power, people want assignments that build skills valued by the market. Learning experiences are what’s really important.”
That said, don’t settle for cheap, poorly run training. Ninth House published a white paper on what types of training top-performing companies use. Here’s a list to give you some ideas of what to ask for from your own company:
1. Executive coaching. No surprise here. But a good reminder that this sort of training is expensive and you should try to get your company to foot the bill.
2. Rotational assignments. Companies that grow their own executive management usually have intensive training programs that include many departments and businesses within the company. Push hard to get yourself into one of these programs. They are treasure troves in terms of both learning and prestige.
3. Quantitative measurement. There are ways to objectively quantify your leadership effectiveness (for example, 360-degree performance reviews). And then you can quantify your improvement, too. Ask for this. It’s a great way to find out what other people think of you without sounding lame for asking.
4. Learning by doing. Role playing is the best teacher there is, even though we all hated to do it. It’s the new rage. I see it in ads for business school, everyone claiming that they teach this way the most. I see it in image management consulting firms. I even noticed on Passover that my Haggadah has role-playing sections for kids. So even if you think you are too cool for role-play-based training, go to it if you have the chance.