People often ask if there was a single factor that helped me achieve a rewarding career. It’s difficult to identify one thing that explains success; it’s more about doing many little things right and often.
That said, my story does have a few themes, a context I created to help shape the actions I took over my 33+ year growth and survival period.
Lesson #1: You need context for your career progression otherwise you are likely to “chase stuff” as opposed to taking deliberate steps engineered to achieve the end goal you are seeking.
I learned early that I needed to be
relevant and unique.
Relevant in terms of adding value that the organization needed to meet the challenges it was facing. In my world it was morphing a monopoly communications company into a customer serving, highly effective competitive machine.
Unique in terms of being the only one that did things the way I did. I viewed every task through a BE DiFFERENT lens. My approach was to ask myself “How is everyone else likely to do this?” and then do it differently (http://www.bedifferentorbedead.com/blog/item/how_to_build_a_wtf_personal_brand).
As a team of four Group Product Managers we were asked to develop a Career Plan for each of our direct reports. I correctly assumed my colleagues would treat this directive as a “pain” and take the quick and dirty approach. I decided to create an elaborate plan for each person. My detailed binder on each individual trumped their one-page superficial effort. Score!
If you are special in a way that benefits an organization, you will be noticed and given access to opportunities as they arise. I quickly rose from Group Product Manager to GM Product Management leaving my associates scratching their heads.
Lesson #2: Don’t follow the herd. BE UniQUE. BE CoNTRARIAN (http://www.bedifferentorbedead.com/blog/item/be_contrarian). BE DiFFERENT. Where do you access the creativity to step away from the common path?
I was a voracious learner. I read everything I could that related to my Company’s threats and opportunities. I attended conferences to get new perspectives on old problems. I was ahead of others on the learning curve.
But most importantly,
I practiced what I learned.
The intellectual value of a new idea or approach was unimportant to me unless it could be successfully implemented. “Doing it is more important than talking about it.” was my personal mantra. My personal brand evolved accordingly. I became known as the guy that executed new ideas that helped the business; this further distanced me from the herd.
Lesson #3: Learn and execute. Don’t get known as a pontificator who loves a new idea but doesn’t have the passion and drive to execute it in the trenches. Be prepared to “get dirty” where the tough work lies.
Learn from my three life lessons and watch your career skyrocket.