By Scott Westerman
“Companies don’t hire employees. They invest in solutions.”
“America loves a winner.” General George S. Patton is credited with that statement. And it’s true. We marvel at people who rise to the top. We often wish we could enjoy their success. But what does it take to earn it?
Here are some ideas to ponder, whether your goal is to lead the field, or simply get in the door.
What is your goal – Winners have goals. I frequently ask the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. It’s amazing how few people actually have seriously thought about it. If you can’t see the destination, you won’t find the road to take you there.
Who is doing the things you want to do well? – Learn from the best. Who is the best in the world in your current profession, or the job you hope to have? If you have a sense for where you think you want your career to go, who are the people that have succeeded? What are their success habits? How do they dress? How do they spend their time? What additional experience and/or education do they have? Schedule a series of informational interviews with people at the top of your game to learn how they got where they are.
Insider’s Tip #1: One of the most effective door openers is: “I think I want to grow up to be just like you. Can I spend 20 minutes with you to learn some of the secrets of your success?”
How can you act now as would the person you hope to become? – Fake it until you make it. We are all works in progress. What winning behaviors and habits can you incorporate into who you are now to help you evolve into the person you hope to become? At the front of that list is gratitude, followed closely by adding value. After each informational interview, send a handwritten thank-you note. In that note, add some value. Everybody has a need. Figure out how to serve that need and you may soon be on the payroll.
Insider’s Tip #2: Follow-up is crucial to building good relationships. Track your potential mentor’s social media activity. Share the good stuff with a little of your own added wisdom and praise taked on.
What’s standing in your way? – Obstacles are designed to make you stronger. Only the weak avoid them. Many of our obstacles are self created. We assume we don’t have the background, the resume, the relationships or the degree to get what we seek. If any of these things are valid, the good news is that we can do something about it. But think carefully about what’s real and what’s imagined. Our imagination can create what Seth Godin calls “resistance”. Resistance looks and feels just like fear. Fear is a reasonable reaction to danger. Resistance creates those same emotions in an attempt to maintain our status quo, no matter how bad that current reality may truly be.
Insider’s Tip #3: One of the most daunting obstacles in this time of digital interaction is on-line application process that many companies now use. When you make friends who work where you want to work and do what you want to do, they can often help you make sure your credentials navigate the maze and get to the hiring managers.
When will you take some action? – Nothing happens until we decide to make it happen. If you have invested some time in goal setting, studied the habits of people who are successful at what you hope to become, and if you’ve made an honest assessment of what real hurdles stand between you and your objective. Then it’s time to do something about it. The reason that most people are stuck in unhappy situations is because they refuse to take any steps in the direction of changing them.
Insider’s Tip #4: Develop your own system for keeping track of your goals and the activities you will do to achieve them. Give yourself at least one task each day to move your game plan forward. There are a number of cool smart-phone applications that can help keep these at the front of your mind.
How will you handle failure? – Nothing worth doing is simple. This is life’s way of forcing us to become smarter, stronger and more resilient. Failure will try to bat you down time and again. In fact, those who have been uber successful have failed many, many times along the way. The only real difference between winners and losers is this: When winners fail, they are able to get back on their feet more often. They “fail forward”, making the motto, “I never lose, I win or I learn,” their mantra.
Insider Tip #5: In most job interviews, you will inevitably be asked about one time when you failed. How you answer that question will say a lot about who you are.
Wherever you may be right now. Spend some time imagining the things you could do, the places you could go and the contributions you might make. Write them down. Seek out people who have achieved the things you want to achieve. Learn from them. Emulate their positive behaviors.
And while you’re doing that, remember that there are some people who have built their careers on ill gotten gains. Earn success fairly, without doing harm. Karma always rules. You may not see it happen, but every bad behavior ultimately leads to an appropriate consequence.
Determine what additional tools you need to add to your backpack for your trip. Dump unproductive relationships and focus on people who share your passion and will support you. Get the training you need. And remember that success is built on a series of teachable moments, the things other people might define as “failure”. Fail forward.
And most importantly, do something to move you in the direction of your dreams right now. The world is a plethora of distractions. Most people vector toward activities that are tension-relieving instead of goal-achieving. Act as the person you hope to become and you’ll soon clearly recognize the difference.
Whatever your current circumstance, you have the power to change it. Jump out of that uncomfortable comfort zone. That’s where happiness lives. And you deserve to be there.
Here are links to a Word Doc and PDF of my Game Plan For Change Worksheet. I hope it helps you articulate your objectives and serves as a roadmap toward achieving them: