Consider the dozens of life and career choices you’ve made over the years. Try to remember how and why you make those choices. What were you expecting at the time? How did the reality match up with your expectations? Did the choice of school, career, job, or spouse worked out better than you dreamed – or far worse? What do you know now that you wish you known at the time? How might you have made a more informed and wiser decision? What can you do to improve your decision-making the next time you’re faced with a life-altering choice?
Then look for patterns – hidden similarities that underlie the choices you’ve made. On reflection, you might discover that you repeatedly chose the easier of two career paths – or the harder. Neither of these patterns is necessarily “right” or “wrong” – what’s important is that you recognize your own tendencies and make conscious choices about whether and how to change them going forward.
An interesting effect of the changing business landscape has been a change in the attitude toward departed employees. In the past, many companies treated those who’d left (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) as pariahs, traitors, or losers. Today, they’re generally considered a pool of potentially desirable rehires. After all, if you leave Company A for a job at Company B, you will still retain useful knowledge of how Company A operates. In addition, you will also develop valuable new insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a competing firm. Thus Company A will probably be happy to consider hiring you back. Rather than a “traitor,” you’re more likely to be called “a returning alumnus.”
If possible, stay employed while job hunting. Although it’s more important to be employable than employed, there is still a positive bias toward someone currently employed. Although this bias can seem irrational, it’s human nature to want what’s in demand. That’s why people tend to flock to the most popular movies, buy the books on the best-seller rack at the bookstore, and to look twice at merchandise they’ve seen others use or wear.
By contrast, if you seem needy and easy to get, people will be less eager to hire you and more reluctant to make a handsome salary offer. As James Crowe, CEO of Level 3 Communications, says, “We want people who are in demand. They generally have to walk away from money. Then we will do what is appropriate [to get them].” Having a current job while you search for your next job enhances your personal brand as a person who is in demand.
It’s estimated that the work force is comprised of approximately one-third Millennials, one-third GenX, and one-third Boomers – with a few Traditionalists not ready to walk off the playing field. It’s a little funky, frankly.
You are in one of those groups. Regardless of your age or time in the workplace, in your pursuit to be better, you have to separate yourself from contenders in a competitive environment. That goes whether you are working face-to-face or on your laptop, desktop, tablet, or mobile device. You have to put yourself out there, elevate your game, and stand-out even when they can’t see you.
Regardless of your age or stage in your career and the change in the work force, one thing remains the same. You can not ignore the need be unsurpassed at your job: brilliant, inspiring, authentic, skilled, undaunted, composed, honest, and a good example to emulate.
Well, you can, until you get hammered and end up having your next job title be “assistant to the summer intern” and get written off with three words, “considered not ready.”
To be a contender today you have to be that person uniformly online as well as offline — that’s personal branding.
Sometimes people take offense about “acting the part,” as if doing so means that they are fakes. Anyone who has children knows parenting is a fake-it-til-you-make-it experience. Surely confidence deserves the same pass. Comparable fake-it-till-you-make-it action is also what most enterprises are built on. (By the way, a good time to start your acting is first thing in the morning before your brain figures out what you’re doing. Be determined to go through your day feeling undaunted. If at the beginning, the middle, or at the end of the day, you appear scared and timid, you will decrease others’ confidence in you at home and in the office.)
One CEO told me, “I still doubt myself every single day. I’ve had painful situations, times when it was really tough. What people believe is my self-confidence is actually my acting in reaction to fear.”
When you decide to be determined, then turn up the juice. Go further, and get into your uncomfort zone. Every success story starts with someone going against popular practice or thinking. Plant a stake in the ground on some position, even if it’s not the most popular. If it turns out well, great. If it doesn’t, you’ve still shown conviction.
Do the scary. Face fears. Bad things that might possibly happen are worse in your head than in actuality. Failure will not kill you. It may make you sick for a while, but that is often your own doing in your head, too.
P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.