When we’re feeling stagnant or trapped in our job, jumping ship altogether often seems like the best option for disruption. However—and this is a big one—what if you didn’t have to? What if you could identify what motivates you, and why your current job isn’t a good fit? What if you communicated your desires for growth to your boss, and were able to do so in a constructive way? What if you could find a way to disrupt yourself without quitting or losing your job?

Bethany Quam’s “first career” at General Mills was not a good fit. Having graduated from college with an accounting degree, Bethany spent her first two years working in the finance department and making practical use of her practical degree. At her annual performance review Bethany was shocked to find out that while she was considered technically sound at her job, she was also “too chatty.”

“[He] literally wrote that in my performance review. And he said, you know, finance people are supposed to be more introspective. They’re supposed to be kind of seen and not heard that much, until it’s time to drive home the fact that you’re off budget. And it was another wakeup call a little bit in terms of—“I can do this work, but am I truly starting to understand what really drives me, and what I really wanted to do.”

Bethany refers to this moment as a “cue,” letting her know that her internal motivation and drive lay elsewhere. Looking back on her life, Bethany now sees many such cues, including her diligence to sell Girl Scout Cookies in the second grade just to win a stuffed horse. Luckily for Bethany, General Mills had a sales rotation program that allowed individuals from outside the department to go on a six-month rotation on the sales team, and it was while she was in Cleveland on this program that Bethany realized what truly motivates her.

“I started telling my boss this, “Listen, what I’m driven by is learning, leading, and ensuring that I leave the campsite of General Mills always better…I am interested in where I can have a broader impact on the people and the business of General Mills…I give you that piece of advice, too: helping your boss understand what you’re interested in is super important. And then sometimes telling them—this is what I see it in. And you can give them examples of two or three jobs. But tell them why those are interesting, and then say to them, “What do you see?”

Bethany would go on to be in sales for 18 years before pivoting to a different “career” within General Mills (she says she’s had four careers in total). Her ability to communicate with her direct superiors about her motivation and drive allowed her to disrupt herself within the company, all while maintaining a steady paycheck.

“I started to understand that it wasn’t about the job, you know, what do you want to be when you grow up, it was more about, what drives my energy?”

Join us as we explore Bethany’s career journey, how to push out of the comfort zone to stay in growth mode, and Bethany’s love for the gift of feedback. If you like what you hear please subscribe and leave a message in the comments. You can play it on the player above, or download the episode on iTunes.

Takeaways from this episode:

  • Know what motivates you. Look at cues from your childhood about what you are truly interested in, and don’t be afraid to ask yourself if your current line of work plays to your natural strengths and tendencies.
  • When you get into bigger roles [such as leadership], be intentional. Don’t be afraid of the gift of feedback. Even if the feedback is negative, it helps us take corrective action and look to the future.
  • If you’re the one who needs to give difficult feedback, make sure that it is feedback that comes from a place of caring. Be kind and look for ways to help.
  • You don’t have to leave your current company to move to a different learning curve.

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