I first met Megan Meany, global anchor at SAP TV, when she interviewed me about the work I am doing with SAP to enable SAP SuccessFactors customers to eradicate bias from key human capital management decisions through its cloud offering. Meany was made for broadcast journalism: smart, funny, inquisitive, and able to hone in on what matters. Over the course of her professional journey, Meany has entrepreneured her career from entry-level editorial assistant at one of Boston's two major newspapers to onscreen lifestyle reporter. She is now at enterprise software giant SAP where she covers the hottest topics and people in the industry.
Her on-air capabilities notwithstanding, I was most taken by Meany's insatiable focus on what's next. She is always looking ahead, leaving one with the feeling that like hockey legend, Wayne Gretzy, Meany can't help but mindfully hustle her way to where the puck is going. Standing still and being complacent is not her gig. "I don't know how to not give 150%," says Meany. But neither is hustling forward for the sake of hustling.
Being mindful of the end goal has enabled Meany to accelerate where others may falter. "I am always prepared because I am always working backwards from where I want to go," says Meany.
Mindfulness requires a quiet mind and an open heart and offers clarity on what might be possible. There is intelligence in an intention that comes from both gut instinct and informed experience without prejudice. When you combine the intensity of mindful intentions with the grit of hustling, you are able to entrepreneur your career instead of your career defining you. Meany shared the eight components needed to mindfully hustle to your next big thing:
1. Keep your eyes on your next move while respecting your current role
Ambition and action are important if you want to progress in your career. However, when you are hired to do a job, you have to do it. "You have to be mindful of the commitments you make," says Meany. People talk. When you don't do your job because you are too busy looking for a promotion, you will earn a reputation based on blind ambition at any cost versus being a top talent who will make an impact. Instead, look for ways to meet people and opportunities to make meaningful impact toward your dream role through the work of your current position.
2. Focus as much on building a network of mentors and advocates as you do on building skills
There is so much to learn when you are working your way to your next big thing. The biggest difference between those who achieve their definitions of success and those who do not are people. "Some people collect stamps or shoes, I collect mentors who have become my go-to list of folks I contact when I am thinking of making my next move," says Meany. Your next job will most likely come through a referral. It's important to cultivate relationships with people who have held positions you want to hold and who have made impacts similar to those you want to make. Megan did not study journalism in college and she had no technical experience yet she has forged a career converging in these two areas.
3. Ask not what your connections can do for you, ask what you can do for your connections
No one likes to be assaulted at the jugular. That is what it can feel like if someone comes to you for help, without first cultivating a relationship, one built on mutual benefit and common ground. One of Meany's first power connections was with an on-air reporter who was also a busy mom. "I saw how harried she was and that she could use an extra set of hands," says Meany. Instead of just asking her connection for career help, Meany would feed information and ideas to her new mentor and find other ways to help with her workload. As her mentor witnessed Meany's commitment and capabilities, she let her start writing scripts. That was the perfect break that led to Meany's next big thing.
4. Work harder than everyone else without losing yourself in the process
As the saying goes, success is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. If you want to accelerate to your next big thing, you don't have to be the smartest person in the room. You don't even have to be the most capable. You do have to work the hardest at the right things. "I made a practice of working two jobs in my twenties. I was always the one to sign up for the extra assignments. Now, working hard to me looks a lot different," says Meany. You don't need to work around the clock all of the time. Working hard isn't about the hours you put in; it's about the impact you can make. Meany subscribes to the Arianna Huffington belief that you need sleep, digital detoxing, and a break from the daily grind in order to bring your A-game and make the biggest impacts. Sure, there are times when extra hours are needed but those are now the exception and not the rule.
5. Go to where there is movement even when that means doing the jobs no one else wants to do
When your dream job is not within your immediate reach, you can find another way. Meany wanted to be on air covering lifestyle topics. All of her jobs in the industry were administrative. And, without a degree in journalism, she had to find another way to hone her presentation and story writing skills. Meany took a job with Kohler where she got a lot of practice in using her words to educate a crowd. "I was on big stages, talking to a lot of people about toilets and showers. The pay was great. I honed my presentation skills and I have to learn to tell a content based-story," says Meany. Soon after, she got a call from a previous boss who offered her a job as an on-air traffic reporter. It was far from her dream job, but it was the step that ultimately opened the door to NBC.
6. Use your platform to get to your next thing
Sometimes growth can happen right under your nose. You don't always have to leave your current role in order to get to your next gig. Mindful hustling enables you to look for the biggest and most important events and projects within your reach where you can bring unique value. With your current sphere of influence as a launch point, take a look at the people you know who are connected to those big opportunities. Make it known that you are willing to contribute. "Be willing to communicate where you want to go, what you want to experience, and the impact you want to make," says Meany. People are always willing to help. Always. The added bonus is that with each new experience, your platform grows as the people around you get exposure to how you work and the value you add to their lives.
7. Come to the table with ideas, be bold and be ignorant of what you can't do
Like most entrepreneurial people, Meany puts herself in situations where she gets the role and then has to figure out how to do it. She gets that you don't know how to do something until you do it. As an associate producer, a behind-the-camera position at CBS, it was unheard of for someone in her position to pitch story ideas, that she would deliver on-camera, to executive producer Steve Friedman. Yet, that is exactly what she did. His response "He told me, 'anyone who wants it this bad deserves a shot," says Meany. One gig led to another. This is exactly the type of mindful hustling that helped her land her current gig as a global reporter at SAP. After she met SAP CEO Bill McDermott during a freelance assignment, Meany emailed him a photo with story ideas. With no technology experience, it was a risk. She was hired and delivered those stories within weeks on the job.
8. Know when to leave
For many of us, our careers are more than fulfilling dreams. It is also the only way we have to pay the bills. Depending on your situation, leaving a current role might have to wait until you have secured your next job. Meany had a bit more freedom. As the contract for her job as a traffic reporter was ending, she knew she had hit the ceiling; that job was not going to lead her to another, more expansive role. "I knew I was only ever going to do traffic if I stayed. That inner spark that comes with learning new things had faded. That's always my indicator to leave," says Meany. Despite concerned and bewildered comments from family and friends, she quit. For Meany, success wasn't about being on TV; it was more than that. After some time to regroup, she started a lifestyle blog, which led to a new and more fulfilling career on television.
Steadfast in her personal definition of success, Meany has mindfully navigated from one dream job to the next on her own terms. There is not a day that goes by where she isn't doing the hard work of mindfully hustling for more: more experience, more knowledge, and more impact. Now that is a life well lived.