Much is made about how to navigate the complicated and very fluid professional waters we are in today. As someone who has been at this for over 30 years and has spent the last decade on my own, I offer some thoughts.
In August, Frank Bruni penned a New York Times column about going back to school, and the real value that students should look for when returning, or starting off, on the path to academic success. He touched on two areas that go well beyond the college experience, and have great value along the path of life; the value of storytelling, especially the personal narrative we build, and the value of mentoring and surrounding yourself with the right people to help you choose the path you may end up on.
As someone with a passion for learning from people from all walks of life, as well as someone who has now spent ten years in the uncharted waters of consulting, understanding your narrative contribution and the skills you have to help others, and the building of a personal network are invaluable. Here are a few thoughts as to what you need to get those two areas strong and healthy.
Stay relevant to the community around you. Learning something every day and figuring out how that can apply to the task at hand, is key. Being pigeonholed as someone who does one thing at a certain price for a certain period of time is a hindrance. Being able to balance advice and deliver at the same time is a challenge learned only by experience.
Time is precious, manage it well. Having the efficient use of time with all the distractions we have around us to finish projects, to work with others, to manage deadlines, even to think clearly and effectively, is so important, and is a skill that always needs improvement. If you can be successful juggling multiple projects in multiple time zones for multiple personalities you know how to make the clock work for you.
Take notes, lots of notes. Even the best with memory forget, and early in in my career, my boss Anne Worcester, who was CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association at the time, was big on making sure everyone had notepads. Make a list, check it twice, and review it at the start of the day and at the end. It really helps you see progress, and make sure that the little things are getting done in a world too dependent on email sometimes.
Look left, look right. I have always been admirer of how point guards in basketball go about their jobs in games. They are always looking to see where things are going and how things are developing. They rarely look down. I readily admit that, I am always looking down. However it is really important to have a sense of all around us, because if we don’t, we miss a lot of the activity that makes us whole, in business or in our personal lives. The people and places around us bring us much.
Most importantly, LISTEN. We are all in a rush with limited time and bandwidth. However if you take the time to listen to all that’s going on around you, you will HEAR people tell you some amazing things about themselves, their lives, their businesses, their needs personally and professionally. Ask questions off of what you have heard, and develop the narrative off of that. It becomes a personal conversation that may lead you to places that you were not expecting, just be gearing some of the simplest of things that people are telling you.
Now no one will say that the journey is easy. We are a global community with millions of stories waiting to be told, many of which are in our midst. Off of those stories comes the narrative that we ourselves can build, and off of that narrative comes the path that can lead us not just to where we want to go, but to where we can go personally and professionally. Is that road fraught with disappointment sometimes? Yes. Is the financial remuneration always the best? No.
However by being able to tell one’s story and by building the right group around you, the ability to get along personally and professionally becomes that much more manageable. Finding ways to do the little things, and build personal brand through storytelling and listening, is very rewarding.
Your value lies within, it is the only thing you take with you for the long term.
Good luck on the road, but be sure and enjoy the ride.