Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Run Your Career as a Business

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. – Tom Peters

The Mentality: Run Your Career as a Business

On a camping trip in the Rocky Mountains “many years ago”, ETP Network Editor-in-Chief Chip Hartman had the misfortune of stepping into a pool of quicksand along the banks of a slow-moving river. I’ll let Chip tell the story:

“We broke camp around 7 am and headed toward the river. The embankment was so steep we had to run down the path to reach the water’s edge. We thought we were running out onto a wide sandy area along the river bank, but it wasn’t. With the very first step, three of us sank into the muck at least six inches. Every time we tried to remove one leg, the other would sink deeper. In less than a minute, we were almost waist-deep. Then we remembered the advice of a forest ranger only a few days earlier: “If you step into quicksand, you can escape by either lying backward or forward on it. It’s denser than water so you can actually float higher in it than water as long as you’re calm and don’t make any sudden thrashing movements. You can float your way out of it.” But how could we do something so preposterous and illogical? There was no time for debate. We either had to float our way out or risk a horrible death. One by one we tried, very gently. Little by little we paddled out with our arms and reached an area were there was secure footing underneath.”

Pretty frightening, isn’t it? But Chip’s quicksand story provides an interesting insight into paradigms. Many of us were brought up to believe the Hollywood stereotype of quicksand victims thrashing upright in the muck, yelling and screaming as they sank deeper and deeper, gasping for that final breath before slipping under the surface. It was a grim, terrifying way to die — and we all bought it!

Which proves how easy it is to cling to long-held beliefs, especially if they go unchallenged for a long time. And that makes me wonder: How many other beliefs do we hold as absolutes, absolutes that could be easily debunked if a better explanation came along? In Chip's case, the need to quickly change long-held beliefs may have saved his life. What could it do for you?

I’m going to ask you to let go of the belief that so many professionals cling to — “The Employee Mind-Set” if I work hard I will secure my position and everything else will take care of itself — and adopt an entirely new way of thinking about career management.

Let’s get to work.

As the CEO of your career you will:

  1. Learn to partition your responsibilities to ensure that all critical operations are carried out and none get overlooked. For example, your Research & Development Department will be in charge of networking — making connections, digging up new leads, gathering business information, etc… Right from the start, anything you do that's part of this effort is processed in the R & D “department” of your mind. Likewise, your Sales & Marketing Department will oversee the development of a powerful value proposition until every task is properly niched.

  2. Take responsibility for making tough decisions — there’s just no way around this. Tough decision-making is a skill with tremendous short and long-term benefits. It trains your mind to weigh options before you commit to a course of action.

  3. Accept the consequences of your tough decisions — both good and bad. You can savor the good results and analyze why the bad results occurred. Most importantly, don’t waste time beating yourself up when a decision yields poor results. Pick up the pieces and move on. Learn from every aspect of the failure experience because it will move you closer to career success.

  4. Bring a new level of personal accountability to your career. Why? Because you have a “governing body” to which you now have ultimate responsibility: your Personal Board of Directors (e.g., spouse, family, extended family, significant other, etc…).

Still not convinced you can benefit from thinking like a CEO? Are you saying, "Why bother? This sounds like a whole lot of work for very little benefit."

If that’s how you see it, consider this: Your competition fails to adopt the “I’m in charge” attitude and their race for the finish line becomes a mediocre performance at best. They remain mired in the “employee mind-set”, a part of the Black Hole crowd that inevitably lags behind. And while most of us don't want others to fail, there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on the inept business decisions of others to gain a tactical advantage whenever possible. In other words, if you are thinking like a business owner and your competitors aren’t, you have a significant edge over them. Do not fail to leverage it!

Will you absorb this paradigm shift overnight? No. In a week? Unlikely. In a month? Maybe. People internalize it at very different rates. Most can tell rather quickly if they are cut out to be the CEO of ME, Inc.

The good news is that this mental model will work if you make it work.

Best wishes and own your career,

Rod Colón
Career Management Consultant, Executive Coach, Speaker, Author
Weekly Co-Host of Radio Show "YOUR CAREER IS CALLING".

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