With graduation season upon us, here are three things I wish I had known
many, many years ago. Things like you should bring your dog to work and only eat quality dark chocolate: the things nobody tells you.
Way back in 2008 I’ve just moved back from Caracas, Venezuela, just divorced, just finished my PhD coursework, starting my dissertation and life as a single mom. I don’t know anything about having a successful career in corporate, having always worked in writing and teaching. All I do know is I don’t want to pursue an academic career, even though I’m deeply involved (timewise and dollarwise) in finishing my doctorate and I don’t want to be struggling financially (Obviously.)
As my son pointed out to me, at an age when most people are figuring how to pay their kids’ college bills and then retire, I’m beginning a new career. In 2009 I open Mixonian Institute, designed to make any company more profitable as its managers and executives learn to communicate more effectively. I’m sure to become a millionaire in no time.
Fast-forward to now, I’m still not a millionaire but I am earning almost 3 times what I made when I started this journey. Here are 3 truths I wished I knew earlier. Maybe you can add to this list and we can all be wiser.
Truth #1: The most important thing about your job that nobody tells you is marketing your work.
It’s BS. I know. Your boss, and his boss, and everybody should just know what you do. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Though it seems madness to that people at the top of the company don’t always know what the workers, supervisors and managers are actually doing, but such is the sad reality. Everybody is busy with their own business. Successful folks consistently sell their value to the company.
Mostly it’s your mindset of including marketing activities as part of your job. These activities can be speaking up at meetings with intelligent comments and questions, asking for meetings, starting projects (even without permission), communicating with everyone what you’re up to, sharing what you learn in other meetings with your colleagues and superiors and documenting your work (painful but worth it).
In short, telling people what you do (i.e. sharing your projects) is usually as important as what you actually do for a living.
If your inner introvert is horrified at having to hold all these extra conversations, simply create your own newsletter to distribute on a regular basis. And meet with the Grand Poo-Bahs individually, not in groups. You can do it! You can, but infinitely more important, will you?
Truth #2: The most important career marketing you do is cultivating relationships with interesting people.
Some of these people work for you, above you and a lot of them work in other companies and other industries. Consider it part of your Medici Effect – the more diverse your connections and comfort zones are, the more creative and effective problem solver you become.
Get to know people you work with, people who work in different parts of your company and people in other industries that you find attractive. Last year I went with my sister to the Southern Coterie Summit, a confab of Southern interior decorators, lifestyle bloggers, fancy food purveyors and event planners (aka nothing to do with Mixonian’s client base.)
Not only did I meet these delightful creative professionals that I would otherwise never have run across, it’s led to a great writing gig and quite unexpectedly, some fantastic clients. I learned so many things from these more visual professionals, the most important of which is how to put together the mother of all swag bags.
So if you’re a programmer who adores surfing, your surfing buddies are now part of your professional network.
Truth #3: It’s not finding the work you’re passionate about, it’s being passionate about the work you’re doing.
Obviously I adore sharing communication secrets and watching my clients catapult in their careers. But over the years, I’ve done plenty of other gigs — software training for pharmaceutical companies and a large hospital, teaching Excel, PowerPoint and Web Intelligence (SAP product) and writing technical lesson plans.
Bringing my cheeky style, creative flair and enthusiasm to these projects has not only made them enjoyable, but again, I’ve met incredible and super-smart people (and gotten promoted.) People look to move up people who enjoy what they do, whether those are clients or your boss at ACME Inc.
Even if you’re tending bar while you look for a “real” job, serving drinks with passion and style just may land you that dream job. And if it doesn’t you’ll learn all kinds of things and meet some interesting characters
Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with communication as a tool for building bridges and careers. She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and enthusiasm. And a presentation is just a special conversation. Laura creates quirky, often customized communication workshops and she coaches executives. She is the go-to coach if you want to improve your communication skills to move your career forward. Read more at www.mixonian.com.