For most people, the idea of following their passion is an exercise in futility. If you are young, you may not know what you are passionate about because you have been so conditioned to work for grades. If you are older, any notion of passion may have been “beaten out of you” by systems where you have been rewarded to “shut up and do what you’re told, or else.”
As a result, most people I have spoken with, whether in search or in coaching are checked out in one way or the other. They want to have an impact but have little idea of how to foster change in their organizations, let alone their lives.
The other issue I see too frequently is that people accept the commoditized work they are performing and, as a result, have become “ordinary” and “easily replaceable.” Little distinguishes them from the next person with the result being when management is deciding between people to advance or promote, they might as well throw a dart at a group of pictures. What can you do to get ahead? How can you plan to get catapult your career?
- Stop accepting being ordinary and doing ordinary work. Too often people are tracked in their careers and aspire to be the best of the mediocrities or, to use the term recently popularized in American politics recently, the best of “the deplorables.” Being seen as the best of the rabble is not the fast track to advancement. It is the fast track to being the lead dog. You are still a dog!
- Figure out what is valued and valuable. Doing things that are considered to be important (valued) and are worth a great deal of money (valuable) should be your focal point. As I have cautioned for much of this year, the US is due for another recession soon (I am not saying that any particular candidate or political party; it is because the economy has been expanding for eight years and is due for another contraction). As a result, it is important for people to prepare by focusing on work that is not commoditized but, instead is difficult, valued and valuable.
- Become so good they can’t ignore you. It’s like, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality. In career planning, it is the acknowledgment that unless someone knows that you are extraordinary and do extraordinary things, what you have done does not matter to them. This is how branding got into people’s thought process when building their careers. As is the case in business, it’s not enough to build a great product. People have to know and want it.
- Excel at something. Your passion will follow. People think they are supposed to follow their passion. Instead, what people need to do is become extraordinary at something that others are willing to pay for. Statistics show that people who excel at something we are passionate about. Often, becoming great at it is the roadmap to finding your passion.
- Become alert to opportunities. The person who gets ahead isn’t always the smartest or works the hardest (although those are great qualities to have). The person who gets ahead is the one who remains alert to opportunities; sometimes those opportunities are internal to their firm; sometimes they come from external sources. Neither close your mind or close your ears. Doing so will cause you to miss opportunities that are valued and are valuable. Learn to recognize those that are ordinary and pay attention to those that are valued and valuable.
- Confront your comfort zone. Coach Marshall Goldsmith famously said, “What got you here won’t get you there.” Become even better at the things you are exceptional at. Face your fears of success or failure and do things anyway. Hire a leadership or career coach to support you with stepping into what is so scary.
Years ago, I remember coaching someone as they were accepting a job offer from a firm that I did not represent. “There is nothing special about this job that a chimp could not do. When times get tough, the target will be square on your back and they will be able to take a clear shot at you come lay off time.”
“No! No! My bosses told me how important I will be to this effort and that she needs me.”
Suffice it to say that when the economy went south so did this job and her boss’ job. After all, it made no difference to her firm if this department lived or died.
What do you need to do? How will you “step up your game?” Don’t just read this and put it aside and say to yourself, “I was a great article,” and do nothing about it.
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2016, 2021
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes.
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