For the last 10+ years or more, you have been very busy keeping the costs low and watching over a multitude of project deadlines like a hawk. Your work ethic and your incredible dedication have been the embodiment of what an effective middle manager or senior executive should strive to become…Yet, this did not stop your employer from sending you the following formal letter:
“Dear Dedicated and Loyal Executive,
Effective Friday…your position has been put-the-reason-for-your-job-disappearance-here. We thank you for the many years of your dedicated service. The details of your separation from the Company are enclosed…”
The next day or week pass like a blur, but eventually you find yourself wondering: “Now what?” You’re a 40-50-something manager and for a long time you have been doing what your organization wanted you to do. Now, you realize that rolling out the latest cover sheet for the TPS Report, a critical responsibility you have held at your former employer, does not appear to be among the high-demand skills in the current job market. Your startled “Now what?” rapidly becomes a “NOW WHAT?!!” full of desperation and fear.
Fear not, my friend, for as Franklin D. Roosevelt wisely noted, you “have nothing to fear but fear itself!” All that just happened is that your job responsibilities shifted from making your employer successful, for which you can claim a long success record, to making you successful and, yes, it is a full-time job with plenty of overtime! Welcome to your new and exciting role of Chief Executive Officer at You & Many Friends and Associates, Inc! Your new organization’s mission is to maximize shareholder value—your value! There are even more great news! By deciding to read this post, you have already completed the first 0.5 steps in this “3.5 Easy Steps” program to get you back on top of the game and in the first-seat of the very next career express train! Thank you and congratulations! There are just three more steps left to your desired destination. Let’s go!
Step 1: Orient Yourself
Begin by carefully mapping out your current relative position and the steps you will need to take to arrive at your desired destination. If you began your career as an individual contributor, an IT professional for example, it might be very tempting to “hit the books” to revisit everything that happened in the world of information technologies, since you have been promoted to a management role, to show that you still know C++, HTML, Microsoft Windows, etc. Resist this temptation. This is not where you should be focusing your efforts. As a manager, you should have been busy enabling others to be successful—helping your business maximize its business value. Therefore, business value is where you must begin:
- What are the next greatest challenges that businesses are now facing?
- What can I do to assist them to be successful?
- What do I still need to learn to be more effective in enabling business value realization?
Coincidently, business value realization is at the core of Business Relationship Management (BRM), a booming professional discipline. Business Relationship Management Institute, the nonprofit professional organization I co-founded three years ago, is dedicated to the art and practice of business value maximization. I encourage you to check it out!
For an excellent comprehensive overview of what is as well as what’s next in the world of business, I encourage you to look at PwC Annual Global CEO Survey. The latest 19th release of the survey results provides a meticulously compiled answer to “What’s on the minds of over 1,400 CEOs around the world?” question—sorted by country and industry with handy “key findings” summaries added for the readers’ convenience. Use this information to map out your unique thought leadership definition, business value proposition, and your learning plans.
Step 2: Lights, Camera, Action
The time of sending resumes out and waiting for someone to call you back is long gone. Granted, you can still catch an occasional interview invitation using this “legacy” job hunting technique, but increasingly unlikely it will be the kind of job that you, a dedicated hard working executive, deserve. More and more job hunters look for and find their best candidates on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and personal blogs. Regardless of the social media platform you’ll choose to use, and I recommend to use all three of them, it will not be just about you having a page “out there,” but about providing a reliable pulse of valuable ideas and professional insights or, as Vaughan Merlyn, a fellow BRM Institute cofounder and a founding father of the BRM discipline, likes to say, “providing value in every interaction.” The more such value-sharing interactions you will have with the members of your professional community the more likely that you will be noticed. Short of YouTube viral videos, few social media celebrities are born overnight. Building your online presence requires time and effort, but this is part of your new full-time job now and “total value shared” is one of the most critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of your new job.
If you need inspiration and some great ideas on how to get started, consider the following three books:
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
- Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered also by Austin Kleon
- The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it should get you going. In addition to maintaining your social media presence, make sure to go out and reconnect with your peers and members of your professional network. Also go meet your new or soon-to-be followers. There are many ways to do that, but I found Meetup being a great starting point. Regardless of where you might end up going, whether it is a professional conference or one of the meetings advertised on Meetup, you must actively participate in the discussions during or after the event. This is not just about you pushing your name card into the hands of a prospective employer “in case they have a need for an eager and willing…” On the contrary, you must take charge—both as the situation as well as a thought leader. This must be obvious from your body and verbal language. If you need help with this, check out Olivia Fox Cabane wonderful “Build Your Personal Charisma” presentation and, yes, even the “introvertiest” among introverts can do it! I have first-hand experience.
Step 3: Yes, You Are Ready. Just do it!
This might appear like a phony 3rd step in my 3.5 steps framework for success. “Aleksandr,” you might say, “you simply ran out of valuable suggestions, so you’re faking it here!” I respectfully disagree. There is no room for self-doubt and forcing it out of your mind and your behavior is a crucial step. Success is the difference between just knowing how to do something and actually doing it assuming all the risks of failure that any action implies. Don’t wait to become an expert blogger, before you muster the courage to write your first blog post. Write and post it now! Just please read the draft of your post a few times, so it does not come out with as many typos as I often find I have to weed out of my own drafts.
Do not wait to become the next Mister or Lady Charming, before approaching a conference keynote speaker and shaking his or her hand. Do it now! Still don’t believe in yourself? Follow Neil Gaiman’s wise advice: “Pretend you’re good at it.” (as cited in this wonderful fun book) until you realize that you don’t need to pretend anymore. As you get better and bettter, also remember the words of a great ballet dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who said: “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”