Archive | July 2012

Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career – TED Talk

TED Talk Series is now making its comeback to my regular monthly schedule! For those who have yet to realize the amazing knowledge and perspective that can be gained from this amazing series, keep an open mind and prepared to enrich your mind!

As we return to the whole concept of the job hunt, it’s really important to wonder whether or not the beliefs passed onto you by the educational institution are really worth anything. After all, we are told that we will go on to have great careers; but what does that really mean?

Today’s TED Talk is given by Larry Smith on “Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career.” If you are even remotely thinking that you want to have a great career, trust me when I say this is worth your time.

For those who still seem to need some convincing, here are some highlights. I won’t elaborate, because I really do want you guys to watch it to get the full effect; but here are some of my favorite moments.

  1. Attempting to reassure yourself by telling the world that you are “competent” is nothing more than damning yourself into oblivion.
  2. There is a fine line between crazy and genius.
  3. Some people believe, “If I work hard, I’ll have a good career. Therefore, if I work really really hard, then I should have a great career.” Don’t worry. The world will give you plenty of opportunities to work really really hard, but who gave you the crazy notion that equaled a great career?
  4. Passion and interest are two very different things. After all, who says, “Marry me darling! You’re interesting!!” I assure you it won’t happen and you’ll die alone.
  5. “If only I had…” is the last phrase you want echoing through your head once your life has passed you by.
I hope that these five points were interesting enough that it has peaked your interest to watch the TED Talk. And in case you’re thinking that my highlights are good enough, there is an anecdote he posits at the end of the lecture that stopped me dead in my tracks. It certainly helped spur me forward with my life, and I have a feeling it will help motivate you too.
So again, please check it out and let me know what you thought of it below!

The Foundation for Any Promotion

Today’s post is inspired by @Passenger00 for her suggestion to discuss a critical aspect to people who have jobs: Promotions.

Let’s face it, I don’t think there’s a single in this universe employed person who wouldn’t be psyched at the idea of getting a raise. I know I know… didn’t I just say that we’d be talking about promotions? Well, for the majority of people, they are only interested in promotions because it comes with the notion of being paid more. The types of people who acquiring more responsibility for their own personal fulfillment tend to do so on their own, so we won’t talk about that group for today.

Before we jump into understanding the foundation for getting any promotion, it’s important to keep the following caveats in mind:

  1. Organization’s Financial Standing – Let’s face it. Even though you are the best of the best in the organization, if their profit margins can’t support the salary you’re looking for, you better not hold your breath in anticipation.
  2. Career Earning Potential – On the flip side of the coin, if the career path you’re getting into has known salary range of $30k to $70k, I wouldn’t sit idly in my ivory tower waiting for my charming supervisor to come rushing over with a grandiose salary of $100+k.
  3. Your Organization’s Earning Potential – Sandwiched in-between caveats 1 and 2 is the fact that the salary of the people you work with would be a VERY good indicator of what you could potentially stand to make. It doesn’t matter that your career has an average starting salary of $80k a year. Because if the organization you chose to work for only pays entry level people $50k and your supervisor only makes $80k, fat chance getting that six figure salary.
Disclaimer: As with just about anything in life, there is an exception to every rule. These caveats are no exception to that. Read on to find out the single exception to these caveats.
That being said, the #1 thing that you have to understand when it comes to getting a promotion is that it is all based on one single factor: the value you provide to the organization.

Now many of you will retort that with other aspects that come into play, such as trust, reliability, and so forth; but I would argue that a person who truly provides a solid value to the company that is recognized by his/her peers and supervisors inevitably has all those other traits. After all, I would say that it would be difficult for you to be valuable to the company if they had a hard time trusting you to get your work done on time or doing you work well.

So the question ends up being: How do I provide value to my company that will increase my chances of getting a promotion?

1. Bring in new business

That’s right. Sales… revenue… profit… donations… endowments… in the end, it all boils down to new money.

Let’s remind ourselves what the ultimate purpose of 99.999% of every organization is: avoiding going in the red(i.e. avoid debt). (I know most you probably thought I was going to say something along the lines of “make money,” but I’ve already thought of the non-profit rebuttal and thus you lose your chance to be a smarty pants. Muahaha.)

For those of you smarty pants, you probably also suspected that this is the ONE exception to the caveats I posed above. After all, if you can bring in new business and increase your organization’s profitability, you can be damn sure they are going to pay you well. And here’s the thing, if they don’t, someone else DEFINITELY will. If you can bring in new clients, customers, donations, you will not only be one of the most valued people in your organization, but chances are you will also be one of the most well paid as well.

But in all honesty, so sales is something that doesn’t jive well with most of us. And let’s face it, if that was one of our stronger suits, we’d already be in sales. So since #1 won’t work for most of us, let’s start with the next best thing you can do to get a promotion.

2. Be present in your organization.

This sounds REALLY simple, but I assure you that MOST people fail to do this. Because ultimately, being present in your organization is far more than just showing up to work and getting your work done on time. This is about being engaged with the people and culture that constitute your organization.

Remember the following, unless your organization is completely backwards and likes Mr./Ms. Outside Hire for higher level positions (in which case I’d suggest you leave as soon as you can because you’re never going anywhere), the people who will end up recommending you for your promotion will ALWAYS come from within.

Invest time in your co-workers, supervisor, clients, and just about anyone else you encounter at work. Each genuine and well-executed decision will serve as another building block to your recognition and eventual promotion/raise. After all, it takes nothing more than an ecstatic customer who sends a letter of gratitude to your supervisor for you to be put on the radar for that next position.

So go out to happy hour, eat out with your co-workers when you can, and enjoy your work environment as much as you can. After all, we spend 40+ hours a week there, so why not invest some time and money in making it a place that’s enjoyable?

Also, while these are all great things to do while at your job, these are things I would recommend avoiding:

  • Working from home for a majority of the time – Yes. I know. Working at home can be awesome and relaxing, but I assure you, just as quickly as you forget about the office and stop worrying about people looking over your shoulder as you fire up the TV as you sit on your laptop, the people at the office will also forget about your existence as well. I don’t think it takes a genius to see how this might be disadvantageous to you if a promotion/raise is something you’re gunning for.
  • Being a kiss ass – While some people enjoy having someone kiss their ass, this is a high-risk approach that will most likely leave a nasty impression on the people around you. Being kind and genuine is one thing, but the moment people start noticing that you’re fake and insincere, you are going to have one hell of a time digging yourself out of it. And a great work environment is about trust and mutual respect, not about selfish people out for their own benefit.

Remember that every relationship you invest in will only serve to benefit you in the future. This could range from letters of recommendations, networks into future employment, possible entrepreneurial ventures, and so forth. So don’t forget that being genuine and honest will not only serve you well in your career growth, but many other aspects of your life as well.

3. Be crazy productive at your job.

In all honesty, I wanted to leave this one off the list. Unfortunately, I cannot deny the fact that a lot people do get promoted based on this very fact. So here we go…

To start, let me clarify that being good at what you do and being crazy productive are two different things. Being good at your job is the prerequisite to any kind of promotion, but just being crazy productive at your job is one of the worst ways to get a promotion. Before you go off, disagreeing with me though. Hear me out.

The logic for this fundamental is as follows: Produce a lot for the company, therefore you are valuable to the company.

From a simpleton’s perspective, it makes perfect sense. If you consider the complexities of well, life in general, it actually exposes you to a huge threat. What is that threat? It is the threat that you will work tirelessly to be the most productive employee in your organization and only end up with a plaque at the end of the year that says “Employee of the Year.” I don’t know about you; but to me, that kind of recognition is another way of saying, “We thought about paying you more, but we’ve decided that all we can afford is this plaque and some cheese/veggie/cookie trays. Good job kiddo!”

I’m not trying to discredit the fact that it is important to be recognized and that being “Employee of the Year” wouldn’t be an achievement. It is a big deal and is something to be celebrated; but let’s not lose our focus here, you want a promotion/raise. I know that some people will argue that it is a step forward in being recognized and an eventual promotion, but I think that people in modern society are trying to live their lives more efficiently.

That may sound weird to you at first, but think about it. Who in their right mind would want to wait five years for a promotion? Even if you were to say you’d get one in three years, let me remind you would have spent those three years toiling away at your desk and not living it at all. If this recent recession and job scare has taught you anything, it should be that layoffs don’t discriminate between anyone. After all, why pay one person a lot of money when you can just lay him off and make lower paid workers simply do more or just outsource? With the exception of sales, whether you like it or not, you can be replaced. And in a time like now, your “productivity” can be replaced for a much lower price tag.

We’re part of a new generation that is realizing that ideals such as “work-life balance” are things that are actually achievable if we give it the effort it deserves. So why follow an old model of career promotions? I can tell you for certain that I will not be waiting around for someone to hand me a promotion because I’ve been super obedient and give up the one resource I can never get back.

In the end, if you are still going to insist on using this route, then let me ask that you revise your approach to the following:

4. Be one of the best in your field.

I know that sounds really ambitious and can be very vague for a lot of people, but believe me when I say that this is a far better path than being “crazy productive.”

The reason for this is because it is precisely this kind of drive and ambition that open doors of opportunity for people. When you aim to be one of the best in your field, you are talking about one of the most prized traits that people try to systematically create but can’t: innovation.

I hate to leave this approach with such a short description; but that’s the thing about innovation and drive, there are no formulas that will guarantee your success. I will say that based on a person’s personality, circumstances, and skills, I could craft a guideline for him/her. But as far as generic advice goes, I can only recommend that you read more about the concepts of creativity and innovation. And if you need role models to remind you of the great things you can do, I recommend reading more books about entrepreneurs and the amazing things that they are doing.

In summary, most of you will be utilizing a combination of the approaches above. If I were to recommend a single approach to work on however, it would definitely be #2. The thing you have to realize is that ultimately, promotion or not, people want to live their life as fully as they possibly can. After all, there is no guarantee that any of these methods will result in a promotion. If I were to promise you anything though, it’s that growing your social skills, ability to be genuine, and being engaged in your life will be an inspiration and joy for the people around you to see. And if I’ve learned anything from my own experiences and the people I know, it’s that the people around you are what really make your life worth living.

Inspiration – This Is It.

Happy Fourth of July week to all those who live in the United States! Since this tends to be a very celebratory week with vacations and time spent with family and friends, I thought it be best to take some time and inspire you in taking this opportunity to turn over a new leaf and begin your life with a different approach. I hope that this helps put a new spin on how you’ll view life from this point on.

This is it.

Today’s not a warm-up.
It’s not a dress-rehearsal.
There is no second act.

What you do with it.
Where you take it.
Who you bring.

These things matter.
No do-overs. No tomorrows.
No gimme’s or get-backs.

No single moment holds more power.
Nor potential than this.
To bless or fail.

This, too, shall not pass.
Nor yearning manifest.
Until you own it all.

Rise up.
This is it.