To Advance Your Career, Always Be Ready to Bail or Bolt
In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, the most sought-after and desirable employees are the ones whose bags are always packed-;not because they are disloyal or disinterested but because they recognize that “up or out” is the way of the world today.
If you’re not ready, willing, and able to step forward and seize the next best opportunity, within or outside your company, then you’ll discover pretty quickly that the people making the decisions and the key personnel selections will look right past you when the best opportunities are on the table.
They need people who will jump at the chance to move across the country to take on new and uncertain challenges, without the slightest qualms. Most of all, they want people who understand that there are no guarantees of comfort, security or success these days, but there is a guarantee that anyone standing still (or “just” doing their job) will be blown away by people who are doing a whole lot more and who make their interest, aptitude, and attitude known.
The world today is divided into targets and gunslingers, hot shots and has-beens (regardless of your age). Everyone is in someone else’s sights and plenty of people are gunning for your position. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your boots by the side of your bed--just like firemen do.
It’s not so much that your current bosses take you for granted (although there are certainly elements of that) or are dissatisfied with your current performance. But if it’s not abundantly clear that you want it (whatever the “it” happens to be) a lot more than the next twelve guys, and that you’re prepared to make the commitment and the sacrifices necessary to see things through and get the new job done well, then it’s very easy today for the company to find someone else who’s a better bet.
So what can you do to boost your visibility and tilt the odds in your favor, without overstepping the bounds of propriety or pissing off your peers? Here are a few things you can do now to get ready to be great.
Sharpen Your Sights and Step Up Your Skills
It helps a whole lot to know specifically what you’re shooting for. Chasing too many rabbits usually results in you ending up empty-handed. Set a goal, make a plan, and go for it. And while you’re waiting for good things to happen, make sure you’re constantly honing and updating your skill set, adding new tools and technologies to your war chest, and learning all the while from anyone and everyone willing to share with you. Good listeners are in terribly short supply and you’d be amazed at how much valuable information people impart if they know you’re interested and that they’re appreciated. Soak it all up.
Streamline Your Story and Skinny Down Your Price Tag
It’s actually quite possible to be too much of a good thing in the job market and to be perceived as over-qualified for a position that you’d absolutely kill for. It’s nice to be subtle and to stay above the fray, but that’s not what people are looking for today. They want people who want it and want it bad and who aren’t afraid or ashamed to admit it. Those who never ask rarely, if ever, get what they want.
Don’t try to be so delicate or oblique that your message and your interest get lost in the process. You want to be sure that, when the time and circumstances are right, you’re in the game and on the short list and that you make your interest, appetite and aptitude for the new position known to all concerned. Don’t ever assume that anyone besides you knows what’s best or right for you--and shame on you if you don’t tell them.
Don’t price yourself out of a new opportunity before you even get a chance to have a conversation with the people doing the search. You never want to negotiate against yourself, but it’s very important to make sure that the folks around you (and above you) know that money isn’t the thing that matters the most to you.
Money is just the way that people without talent try to keep score. Doing important work, doing it exceptionally well, and getting the right, timely results is what ultimately counts and where the real satisfaction in your work will be found. Making a bump in your current compensation a prime consideration in your next career move is a major mistake. Prove yourself first; it always pays off in the long run.
Scrap Your Entourage and Bag Your Baggage
Package deals may work great for travel agents and casinos, but they don’t help in the hiring process. In fact, they’re a major hindrance. Worry about yourself first and foremost. Then, once you’ve made it over the hurdles and beyond the barricades, you can always reach back for your buddies.
Making a successful move might require you to lose many other impediments as well. As sad as it is to say, the more tightly bound you are to your community and outside activities, the less likely you are to make it onto many a short list. There’s nothing wrong with such ties (from a social and family standpoint they are probably a very good thing), but you should understand that there’s an embedded choice they represent that, unless you actively signal and communicate otherwise, could have serious career consequences. So be aware that family and community ties are just that--“ties” that can restrict and limit your chances to move onward and upward, whether anyone ever admits that to you or not.
HOWARD TULLMAN | Columnist
Howard Tullman is the CEO of 1871 in Chicago where, at the moment, 260 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V, LLC and Chicago High Tech Investors – both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council; and Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. @tullman