Friday, 20 December 2013

Custom Career Development

Far too often in my life, it seems the lessons I learn, once repeated, end up being cliches. I sit there going "Man, I have learned so much and all I'm doing now is repeating age-old sayings that I and everyone around me has heard a million times", and I wonder why it was so hard to figure out in the first place...

Anyway, I'm learning one right now. It's "be yourself". I never really thought about the power of being myself when it came to my career. Yeah, I have a personality and I contribute to a team, but far too often I tailor my skills against my job description or the required experience for a job. However, if I take a cookie-cutter approach, I will live a cookie-cutter life, and that's not for me. Might be for others, but not for me.

I found myself in a conversation with someone senior to me in my field. I asked him "what do I need to do to get the position I am looking for?", and he responded "be yourself". Right. OK. I tried again: "What skills should I have?". His response? "The ones you want to have". Right back where we were. I didn't need to ask again, I knew what his answer would be. So I stopped, thought about it, and couldn't grasp it. So I asked him to explain.

He told me that the most important thing to becoming a leader is to play on the strengths I have, the strengths I build when I play. Those strengths will get me where I want to be. Far too often, I have "been myself" within the confines of a particular box. As I go forward, I need to tear down that box and be the person I want to be, not who I think I should be. Once I do that, I create a situation where it's possible for someone to take my strengths and skills, which I am strong at and passionate about, and turn those into a position.

So if a company has 2 people to lead a division, and those people are themselves, you would end up with two very different divisions, even though the core offering of those divisions are similar. One might be aggressive and pivot quickly, while the other takes the slow and steady road to building an unstoppable force. You might have one division run with a sense of togetherness, and another run with a competitive streak. It sounds like chaos, but you strong divisions that run on the people that lead them. They operate in the realm of reality because that's where we live, not in the world of theory and "looks good on paper". That's the upside. All that's left to do is manage any interactions and you're golden. It's not easy, but it's effective.

So when you're trying to move up the ladder, my advice is to just be yourself. If you just be yourself, you will have a job you love and people will love you being in that job.

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