“I’m not a businessman. I’m a BUSINESS, man.”
– Some dude that says words with swagger
Today, I completed a program at work known as the Harvard Management Mentor. It was a 6 month course aimed at teaching us, the future of the company, to manage and steer our careers in the direction we wanted to go. Before this program I had never really given much thought to my career. It’s not that I didn’t care. I don’t think I knew what I was supposed to be thinking about other than “moving up and making more money”. And since I’m not driven by money it kind of makes sense that I was pretty content to simply show up in my cubicle on a day to day basis and get some work done.
But this class changed all that. First and foremost, the fact that I was asked to be a participant gave me a huge confidence boost. If senior leaders were seeing something in me they wanted to help grow, maybe I should too. It reminded me of my time as a middling teenage athlete. When you’re sitting on the bench, all you want is for your coach to give you an honest shot to succeed. If you get it in the game and throw up a brick, so be it, but at least you understood why you didn’t get off the bench the following game.
I learned to think of my skill set as a product I’m selling to others. Part of salesmanship is marketing. You have to get your name out there and if you’re not out there telling (and backing up) how great your product is, most likely you aren’t going to sell very much. For years, I ignored this because I was afraid to put myself out there. I feared the repercussions of writing a check I couldn’t cash. But there comes a point in time where you get tired of seeing other people get credit for doing work you know you can do at least equally as well. So, I did it. I inserted myself into conversations I was too shy to jump in on previously. As hard as it was for me, I forced myself to play the game and make business small talk. Suggestions and questions I would previously have kept to myself I started voicing. And before I knew it, people started taking notice. People knew my name and what I could bring to the table. No longer was I simply “that guy with big beard”.
Surprisingly, but deservedly, I was given a raise and promotion. For the first time in my professional career, I got it. Your career is your career. It’s nice if you have a supervisor who wants to help you grow, but if they don’t you can’t sit back and simply wait and hope. Own your career. Be confident. Find out what’s important to you and stretch yourself to become the best you can be. The job your doing might not be your dream job, but if you’re going to spend half of your waking hours in a place, you might as well do it by kicking ass and making a name for yourself. I wish I would have had this revelation years ago, but now I know what my potential is when I put my best foot forward and I have no plans on putting this ride back in cruise control.