There I was, lying awake at 2:14am staring at the ceiling. My brain was racing like a formula one car, I was fuelled on high octane (actually sugar) chocolate pudding and ice cream, washed down with a strong café latte after dinner to help me sleep – seemed sensible at the time. It all became crystal clear – the stuff I write in my posts is actually pretty important. And you know what else? – the fact that I write these posts is helping me become more engaged in my own job, my own life. Ah – epiphany. Now I get it.
According to Change Anything – The new science of personal success, there are three key things you must do to get yourself up and traveling on your Career Highway, and these are things I’ve been recognising in my personal journey. They are:
- Know your stuff
- Focus on the right stuff
- Build a reputation for being helpful
And after you’ve done all of that, theres more, a little project on the side. I read a great post recently to support this. You need a:
- Side project
It’s great advice. What about our hapless mate Ralph who we met in my last post? (Menace or mate? Do you know who’s who in your Zoo? – Personal change). Ralph knows he is caught in a rut. His physical condition is bringing him down and his burger buddies at work are great guys but they’re beginning to feel like a millstone around his neck. He is definitely bogged. Chances are his boss doesn’t see him as much of a go-getter so he is likely being overlooked for opportunity after opportunity. Besides that, Ralph is a whatever you have to do to get by, whatever comes across the desk, no plans type of guy. But he can change all that by following the key steps below.
Know your stuff Ralph
Whatever you do, you need to know how to do it well, quickly, efficiently, and with creativity. You need to know all about the job. Patterson et al suggest you should be falling asleep at night pondering strategies, opportunities, techniques etc. And then of course waking at 2:14am in a sugar-fuelled frenzy like me.
Once, before I wrote about career planning and how you didn’t need a plan, you needed to focus on what you’re passionate about (Still no career plan, relax, you don’t need one). If you identify the aspects of your job you’re passionate about or introduce your passions and strengths into your job, then you’re set. Lying in bed at 2:14am thinking about them, or reading books, scratching through the internet talking to Uncle Google and finding technical experts to learn from will become a pleasure you can stand. At 2:14 am I was thinking about and looking forward to writing this article.
Focus on the right stuff Ralph
“…top performers contribute to tasks that are essential to the organisations success.” (Patterson et al, Pg 138)
You need to study your company. Keep abreast of what’s happening. Turn on the intranet, read the company publications, who is being hired and why, what are the business development and marketing strategies, what business improvement projects are underway, what cultural shifts are occurring. You will doubtless find areas that you’re interested in. One of my key interests is of course Employee Engagement. Lucky for me the company is focussed on something I am passionate about – the stars aligned as they so often do. What about you – how aware are you of what’s really important to your company?
“If a company is having trouble manufacturing its product, top performers find a way to help resolve that. If the firm is fighting legal challenges, top performers apply their specific expertise to that issue. If nobody has figured out how to market the product, top performers are hip deep involving that problem.” (Patterson et al, Pg 138)
Build a reputation for being helpful Ralph
“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?” -Brian Tracy
It’s wonderful to be a genius, to know everything, maybe even know everyone, have a six-foot pile of business cards. But if no one needs you and no one has access to your knowledge, then what use are you to anyone, really.
“Individuals who are singled out by their colleagues as the go-to folks in the company are also widely known across their teams and sometimes the entire organisation. They are far more likely than average to be recognised by name, and, more importantly, people describe them as experts who are generous with their time.” (Patterson et al, Pg 139)
When you become a person who is focussed on helping everyone else, on enabling everyone else to do their task, you become a go-to person.
“Top people are widely known and respected by others not because of their frequent contact, charm, or likeability, but because they help others solve their problems.” (Patterson et al, Pg 139)
These people are usually called influencers. They are incredibly important in an organisation. An influencer is a person with informal power, not necessarily the power to direct. But the power they have has the strength to effect change, to move minds. They are leaders in that they attract followers. Smart business leaders recognise the influencers in their organisation and capitalise on that informal power. So you can see why this is a good place to be when your forging out your career.
Ralph, you going to need a side project Ol’ boy
It’s important to be doing things outside of work to develop your passions and strengths. I read a post recently called 13 reasons why you should have a side project and it really spells out the benefits of having a side project. There are loads of opportunities to expand your horizons in this day and age of information, opportunity and networking. I know it takes time, energy and sometimes resources, but there is a lot you can do and learn with very little outlay other than time. Let’s face it – we are all largely limited mainly by our enthusiasm and drive.
But why is this relevant? Well it’s your side projects that create opportunities and open doors into areas that you are really interested in and passionate about. It’s your side projects that provide the opportunities for you to gather and hone skills that can be highly relevant in your current role and that will differentiate you. And if none of the things you are passionate about, or none of the areas where you have strengths are part of your current role, then let’s face it, you need to be exerting energy to find ways to pursue them elsewhere so that your life doesn’t become one long chore.”
How does this all come together to form a plan – well my story is …
I confess, my plan wasn’t entirely deliberate or well-planned out – well, not at a conscious level anyway. I wanted a role in Employee Engagement. I didn’t know what that role was – I knew that no role existed but frankly I wasn’t concerned about that. I became really interested in sharing information I was finding. So I got to know all I could about Employee Engagement. Engagement is largely about people, so knowing everything about that is a bit out of anyone’s depth, but I immersed myself in all sorts of information and resources. I wanted people to be really confident I knew my stuff. I found information that I believed was really important, not just for me to know, but for others to know, and I could see how it connected really well with the direction of the company.
I started small, sharing that information first on the intranet and later on the internet. It gave me the chance to work with new people, and with the right people on my side I got access to knowledge of areas our business could improve in. This is where I focus my energy. I believe I am focussing on the right stuff, the relevant stuff.
Lucky for me I enjoy helping people. I get a buzz out of it. I spend a significant part of my time working on things that I am not measured on, but that I know are adding value to the organisation. These are things that other people need support and assistance with. I am working hard and I’m having success at building a reputation as being helpful and as a go-to person.
Lastly, I am pursuing my passions not only at work, but outside of work through this blog. I am investing time in becoming the right person with the right knowledge, skills, passion and commitment to take on new and exciting roles.
What are you doing? What should you be doing? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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Many thanks to my nephew James Westmore for his wonderful artwork and to Rosie Broadfoot for her continued enthusiasm for editing my posts.
Ref: Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler, 2014, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, Piatkus, Great Britain