First things first – individuals own their career , not companies or bosses or coaches or anyone else . Others can help , but only you can execute . I had this conversation about mid career crisis situations quite a few times recently in some variant with my mentors , and with people that I mentor . I thought I will jot down a few points that came up – mostly for me to come back to for a refresher from time to time . Feel free to add , challenge etc as needed via comments .
1. What got you here won’t get you there
Nothing changed my career for the better than this one lesson that I learned from Bill Smilie , at an executive training program few years ago . The essence of the idea is that you need to constantly evolve your thinking and approach to get to the next level . If you are an ace sales person , just doing what you do best year after year will maximize your commission – but won’t get you to be a sales leader who manages many sales people .
2. Hard/Smart work is required , but nearly not enough if you don’t know where you are headed
You should know where you want to go. Ideally with a plan B and C . If you can’t clearly define what is it that you want – certainly don’t expect your boss to do the thinking for you . Run ideas by everyone you trust – and do it periodically . But decide for yourself .
And for those of us who help others – we might not have the ability to solve all problems that are brought to us . So be prepared to coach your mentees to the level you can and hand them off to another mentor who can take them to the next level . This happens in sports coaching all the time , and is easy to do in career situations too .
3. Don’t wait indefinitely for things to change for better
Loyalty is a great trait – but don’t let that be a one way street all the time . Give time for decisions to be made and processes to finish . If it doesn’t happen at first shot, try few more times if there is some thing to be added to the approach . If all reasonable approaches seem to not work – stop wasting your time and go to plan B . Just don’t get yourself tightly wound up by repeatedly doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result .
4. If things don’t work and you have to move on , ALWAYS leave on pleasant terms
Be it a customer who never gives you business , a boss who never gives a raise or a vendor who is habitually late on delivery – if you are getting out of a business relationship , do so without a big fuss . I can say from first hand experience – time and distance heals most hurt and disappointments in business . Learn what you can from the relationship and move on – save yourself an ulcer in the process 🙂
5. Plant those saplings every chance you get and pay it forward
We all need help from time to time . But you will need to establish the support system before crisis hits you . This is another reason why leaving on pleasant terms is so important . Also – never hesitate to pay it forward . It is not always possible to reciprocate help – for example , your CEO might help you with making an important customer introduction. But your odds of doing that for him is low . But if you nurture that relationship and make an intro to someone else coming after you – it will be very useful . Don’t try to keep a count – make time to help .
I try my best to give time for anyone who asks – and as long as they are genuine , I will give them time again and again . It didn’t come to me naturally – I learned it from my mentors . And they taught me to not waste their time .
6. When things are going well for you , learn to present better and negotiate better
I very rarely meet people with poor ideas , or who don’t deserve what they ask for . However – in many cases , they can’t articulate their ideas and they don’t have good negotiation skills . The time to learn is when you are on a roll – but if you didn’t do it then , do it now . Take classes , practice , meditate , watch it on you tube – whatever works for you . But do it .
The whole idea of effective presentations and negotiations is simple – make it personal to who you are dealing with , and give them options to choose from wherever possible . Yes and No are not the only options I am talking about here 🙂
What would convince a CFO won’t convince the AP clerk . And listen – usually they will give you enough clues on what will work with them . My way of making a presentation or negotiation simple is to avoid slides and use a piece of paper or a white board . Try a few different ways and see what works for you and polish it .
7. Align your goals to a higher purpose that others can relate to
No , not world peace or anything of that proportion . I just meant it in a more tactical way .
In corporate world , I am surprised how many employees don’t think outside their narrow responsibilities . I had a difficult sales situation once with my management not willing to accept my idea on how to close the deal . And the customer chose to stand their ground as well . I could not close the deal that quarter as I had committed , and had to take a week off to keep my sanity . That was the first time ever that I failed in such a magnitude and sort of in such a public way .
In that time , I caught up on reading a lot of business magazines and so on and quickly it dawned on me that if I recraft my proposal to help in an area that was a strategic concern to the company – I might get it approved . So I went back to my bosses with a new plan – and put it in context of the strategy of the company . I got approval in 5 minutes – and they even offered additional concessions I didn’t even ask for . And the very next day – I closed the deal with customer . You bet it changed my whole approach to dealing with my superiors .
This is one point I need reminders on – I knew how to do this with customers for a long time . It just didn’t occur to me till this incident that I should have done it with my own employer too . You live and learn , eh ? Icing on the cake was a few weeks ago , one of my mentors called me to thank for this approach which he learned from me and used successfully in negotiating something big.
That’s it for now – my dogs are pawing me to go play with them . Off I go