Faster access to our computers from home made all the sense in the world. One man was standing against my recommendation. Everyone else loved it. The big boss hid from the debate, citing Jim and the cost as reasons to not go forward with it. It seemed like spite, but we had been friends. Why was Jim sabotaging me? Why wouldn’t he listen to reason?
A year later, as technology advanced, a much cheaper and faster access method was installed. I also gained some perspective. Jim wasn’t an SOB, he was a guy with an opinion. I watched him turn out to be right every single time he took an unpopular stand. It might take a couple of years to be vindicated, but he was always right. Management had learned to ignore Jim at their peril.
Jim was a gatekeeper. He could be reasoned with. He would accept proof. He changed his mind when it made sense. Jim only seemed like a roadblock when you were wrong.
The roadblocks are the folks who are mean and spiteful. They can stop a project by getting in the way or going slow. They literally may kill a plan just because they don’t like someone on the team. They stay in place because they know enough of the right people that they can help advance or hinder careers. They help their friends and shaft their enemies.
Be careful who you define as a gatekeeper and as a roadblock. Ask around. What do your coworkers think of the person in your way? I was wrong about Jim when I thought he was a roadblock. He was a smart guy who was a very respected gatekeeper.
Something to do today
Is someone getting in your way? Ask around. Are they gatekeepers or roadblocks?
The first winter in Plymouth Colony killed a third of the Pilgrims. During that winter one of my ancestors was caught eating the seed corn. He knew the whole colony would fail if the seed corn disappeared, but he talked himself into eating it anyway. I’m glad he was caught. I’m glad he learned.
Every job is the seed of your next job, even if you are changing fields entirely. Your future boss will be looking back at your accomplishments, drive, leadership and enthusiasm for your current job.
When you decide to sit back and relax at your job, you eat your seed corn. No one wants to hire an “average” person. They want to hire a superstar, or at least a hard worker.
Figure out how to make a difference. How can YOU make the company more profitable? Is there some way you can prove you are above average?
When I was doing janitorial work at 4 a.m. every morning, I excelled. I only missed 2 days in a school year and I called in advance for those. I did my entire job no matter how tired I was. That work got me promoted to the afternoon shift. It was a lot nicer. The early morning job was the seed of my next job, and that was the seed of the next.
Don’t relax. Be at least above average. It will be the seed corn for your next job.
Invest some of the money you earn to get training. Use it as seed corn.
Something to do today
Be honest. Are you sliding by?
List what makes you above average. Put it on your resume.
When you don’t get a particular job, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and think about past successes.
Very few jobs are awarded to the only candidate considered. In most situations, even internal promotions, at least 3 candidates are considered. For the majority of outside hires more than 10 resumes are reviewed. You never have a chance of getting the job. But somehow, you eventually win.
Look at your current or last job. Who were the competitors? Why did you win? See! You are good at getting the job.
Now look at the next job you want to have. What can you do today to give yourself the winning edge over the other candidates?
Goals can be used to give you that winning edge in an impossible competition. Yesterday I talked to someone who spent $6000 last year to finish his degree while working full time. Now he not only can win the jobs he looked at more easily, but he can look at a whole new level of jobs.
Set a goal to give yourself an unfair advantage in you next career move.
The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser — in case you thought optimism was dead. (Robert Brault)
Something To Do Today
Figure out when you can spend some time with your goals every day. Just sitting with a pen and paper for 15 minutes each day can change your life if you are thinking about where you want to go.
Make sure the goals will give you a tangible advantage in your career.
The only thing worse than not reaching your goal, is reaching it.
The most common bad career goal
As a recruiter I talk to some people who are miserable that they reached their career goals. Of course I also talk to those who have reached their goals and are loving it, so they set new ones. What’s the difference? Setting the right goals. What is the most common career goal? I do/do not want to be a manager.
It is a terrible thing to climb the ladder of success, and find out it is leaning against the wrong wall.
I want to be a manager
This is the biggest misery making goal I see. As a programmer, accountant, salesperson, or engineer you get to regularly do something concrete. You can see what you did. It is obvious. Managers often work a whole week resolving problems and dealing with emotional issues. At the end of the week, they often cannot point to a single thing they really accomplished. When someone quits, it is their fault and their responsibility to fix the problem. Then someone else quits. They also feel isolated from their coworkers. Managers have to discipline, give raises, and fire people. It gets lonely at the top.
It can also be the perfect job. Some people thrive as managers. If you want to be a manager find out if you will like it. Lead some projects. Lead a team. Reflect on what it will really be like if you no longer “get your hands dirty”. Ever.
I want out of management
It’s funny that this too is a common bad career goal. Be honest, do you really want to get back to the daily production grind, or is your current position the problem. Sometimes you have to change what you are doing, change your boss, or change your company. If you loved management in the past and did well, but you are no longer allowed to succeed, getting back to a production job isn’t the solution. Figure out what else must change, and change that.
Being a manager can be great if it fits your personality and you are in the right place. Before you get out of management, make sure you should be out. You can volunteer for a project leader job where you go back to work in the trenches for a while. Get your hands dirty in a temporary assignment to see if that is what you really should be doing.
Be careful that you set goals you will be happy with. See if you can try out that promotion or production job before you take it full time.
Something To Do Today
Figure out when you can spend some time with your goals every day. Just sitting with a pen and paper for 15 minutes each day can change your life if you are thinking about where you want to go. Figure out how to try out your goals.
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)
Would you recommend someone for a job if you were sure they would fail miserably?
Do you want to work with someone who is unable to deal with problems?
No one else does either.
On the other hand, it is fun working with someone who is trying to learn, who goes the extra mile on the job, and who wants to do what they have studied.
If you are excited by your possibilities, your friends will be also. That’s how you motivate your friends, be excited. For example:
We place a lot of programmers in new jobs. The ones who are so excited that they create programs in their spare time always find jobs. It doesn’t matter if they ever went to college. Their enthusiasm gets them jobs. They love programming. Employers love them. Everyone who knows them is going to bat for them. People they don’t know call them up to see if they can help them find a job. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
On the other hand are programmers who took courses in programming in college. They passed their courses. Programming doesn’t excite them. It’s just a job. If their college degree can’t get them a job in programming, they’ll never look at a computer again. For them there is nothing exciting. Their friends and contacts hear them complaining about the jobs they supposedly turned down. There is no way they are going to get a strong recommendation for a job. Sure enough, the job market stinks for them.
Motivate your friends. Find out what is exciting about the jobs you are applying for. Do the job for free for a charity. If you are a computer technician, go looking for broken computers and tear them apart. Put together a network in your basement. Offer to teach at your library or a nursing home. Salesperson? Do what my partner did, became a charity “hit woman”. Get the job of calling on businesses for donations. You will talk to a lot of leaders of industry. And guess what? If you do a good job, they’ll be impressed. Your friends, family and acquaintances will see what you are doing. They’ll tell other people.
Be excited. Do your job for free because you love it. Help others and demonstrate your love of your desired job. You will motivate your friends and mere acquaintances to help you.
Something To Do Today
Really evaluate how you have been acting. Are you a member of the “beef and whine club”? Find something you enjoy doing that is related to the job you want. Do it with enthusiasm for free.