Why you should take that job

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I read alot of career advice on a weekly basis. While much of it comes with good intentions, the delivery and impact isn’t always in alignment, which is why when I write I try to provide thoughts and ideas that are novel and actionable (but please keep me honest if I am not) Fortunately, I came across a piece this week from First Round Review that has some excellent career insights that everyone can learn from (Pro Tip, if you aren’t reading First Round Review, I encourage you to do so right away. While the content is mostly tech-focused, anyone can learn from it, especially the tips and tricks around management and careers)

This week’s thoughtful insights come from Frederique Dame, a former Product Leader at Uber. Frederique had some great ideas about career advice, all of which have helped her achieve her own success. Some of those nuggets include

  • Make Your Own Safety Net – You’ll be fine if it doesn’t work out. Truly, you will. Most career decisions won’t end with you 0 dollars in your name and on the street, so it will truly be fine.
  • Be Elegant – Be deliberate, respond gracefully, take things lightly,  to move through the world with positive purpose
  • Let go of status – Titles are your Enemy.
  • Your Network is your Net Worth – If you struggle with networking, think about empathy, the long-term, and being selfless

While these nuggets (and others) were really thoughtful and insightful, the one the stuck out the most was her thoughts on how to pick a job. She says I’m convinced that the primary reason to take a role is to work with a great manager and a great team. Together, they determine nearly all of your happiness on the job. “

I couldn’t agree more with that statement. The challenge and opportunity of consulting is that you’re constantly changing teams and thus people and managers. You’re always faced with tough decisions on which assignments to take, so the only way to really pick what you want is to develop criteria to guide your decision making. I was told early on, to pick people, not projects, and that mantra has helped me work towards my main career objectives of doing engaging work, learning and developing, and making a positive impact for others. However, even if my career objectives were different, I’m confident that by surrounding myself with a good manager and good team, I’d still be able to achieve them. So when I have to pick new projects, or, when people ask me for advice about a job, I always ask them what is the work you want to do, and who do you want to do the work with?

As Frederique alludes to, it can be easy to get caught up in the coolness of a company, the sexiness of a role or the financial bearings of a particular job. And having at some point had all of those, I can tell you that in of themselves, coolness, sexiness or financial gain are not entirely fulfilling. However, what is fulfilling is working for and with great people.  So when you’re thinking about taking that next project or job, think about the people that come with it.

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Starting at 10 instead of 1

Recently, I had the chance to hear a retired C-Suite Executive give a fireside chat. She talked about her years as an Corporate Officer for a number of Fortune 500 companies and after listening to her for 40 minutes she stood out as one of the most unique and engaging leaders I’ve ever met. She had a track record of results and getting things done, but seemed to be incredibly humble and someone that anyone could relate to, not an easy feat for someone of that stature.

It was clear from her 35 minutes of talking that she had an uncanny ability to build relationships, which helped her achieve success. At one point, someone in the audience asked her a question about how she was able to build successful relationships when she came back with an incredible response.

I think what has helped me is that when I meet someone, if you think about a Scale of 1-10, I tend to start them at a 10. Sure, if they mess up, or lose my trust, they can move down the scale to a 7 or 6, but they can also move back up when they build trust with me to an 8 or 9. However, I think many people, when they first meet others, they start the other person at a 1, and from there, they have to constantly prove themselves in an uphill battle. My approach tends to be a bit more optimistic, positive, and forgiving, but I’ve found that in giving people the benefit of the doubt, I’ve been able to build common ground and trust, and that is the bedrock of a strong relationship. Yes, I’ve gotten burned before, but I’ve won way more than I’ve lost.”

As a positive an optimistic person who loves building great relationships I loved this approach because selfishly, it resonated with me. Trusting people can be hard, but as a C-Suite Executive who needs relationships to achieve results, finding trustworthy partners is an absolute must.

Next time you meet someone, try starting them at a 10 instead of a 1 and see what happens.

How to Be a Good Networker

For many of us, networking can seem like a necessary evil. We understand it’s importance, but can’t always get ourselves to follow through. Why? There is a lot of work required and it’s easy to make mistakes along the way However, the rewards from networking and building relationships can be significant.

I started professionally networking when I was 16, and over the course of my career have been on both ends of hundreds of networking conversations. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes but I’ve also built some incredible relationships that have helped me grow personally and professionally, and have learned some great lessons around how to network effectively.

Be Specific – It’s great that you want to “pick someone’s brain” over coffee, and while your intentions are probably good, picking someone’s brain could mean so many different things. To be most effective, you’ll want to be specific about what you want to talk to someone about, and you’ll want to communicate that in advance so they know how to prepare. Also, be sure to follow networking etiquette.

Be Grateful– If someone is going to give up 30-60 minutes of their day to talk to you, that’s 30-60 minutes that they are not working on one of their many priorities on their daily to-do list. Make sure to show gratitude for their time by A) being gracious and polite in all communications and B) by using the time effectively by not going over time, and by making the conversation as thoughtful and engaging as possible.

Be accommodating – We all live busy lives, but if you’re going to ask someone to meet with you make sure you are showing some courtesy by being flexible around their schedule. You want to make it known that you value their time, so simply telling them you can only meet on weekends during these windows is probably not the best approach.

Be Efficient – When you reach out to someone to introduce yourself you don’t need to tell the your life story, just the highlights and your purpose. I’ve gotten (and seen requests) that read more like novels. A brief introduction and a specific ask (ex: a 30-minute phone call sometime this month) is suffice. Also, since we’re all so smart-phone driven consider that there’s a decent chance this person might be reading your request on their mobile device – novels don’t show up that well.

Be Prepared – Show courtesy and respect for their time and willingness to meet by coming prepared to your meeting. Take the time to do your research. While you don’t always need a formal agenda, coming with some prepared questions and objectives for what you want to talk about always helps guide the discussion. And if possible, avoid questions that can easily be answered by a simple Google search.

Be Valuable – Networking is a two way street. You might be asking for their time and advice, but you can (and should try) to be valuable to the other person. Perhaps you can offer them something, such as expertise on a particular topic they are interested in, or feedback on something they are working on. At the very least, most people can appreciate a thoughtful and/or intelligent conversation on a topic that interests them, so consider saving time in the conversation to engage them on topics you know they care about.

Be Persistent – Networking doesn’t end when the conversation ends – it’s actually just beginning. If you want to cultivate and get value out of a new networking relationship you’ll need to follow up down the road. For starters, it begins with a follow up and thank you email, but don’t let that be the end. Find ways to engage with that person down the road, whether it’s to see how they are doing or what they are working on, or, to provide an update of your own. Other people appreciate when you think of them, so finding appropriate and friendly ways to engage will help you build relationships.

Networking is an investment, of time, energy and other resources. While it may seem daunting or cumbersome, I’ve found that taking the time to follow these rules has not only yielded strong relationships but has made the process incredibly worthwhile. Anything worthwhile requires an investment, and networking to build up your personal or professional life is certainly one worth making.