A step-by-step guide to reinventing youAre you where you want to be professionally? Whether you want to advance faster at your present company, change jobs, or make the jump to a new field entirely, the goal is clear: to build a career that thrives on your unique passions and talents. But to achieve this in today’s competitive job market, it’s almost certain that at some point you’ll need to reinvent yourself professionally.
"All common sense ideas."
Too many people believe that if they keep their heads down and work hard, they will be lauded as experts on the merits of their work. But that's simply not true anymore. To make a name for yourself, you have to capitalize on your unique perspective and knowledge and inspire others to listen and take action. But becoming a "thought leader" is a mysterious and opaque process. Where do the ideas come from, and how do they get noticed?
One of the most powerful forms of influence, according to psychologist Robert Cialdini’s famous analysis, is authority - often derived from perceived expertise. When a doctor advises us to exercise more, or a Nobel Laureate raises questions about a certain economic policy, we’re likely to pay much more attention than if a random person offered the same counsel.
Networking at a conference typically means rushing into a teeming crowd for coffee breaks and trying to make small talk.
We work in a fast-moving era where we’re overloaded with information and must prioritize and focus in order to succeed. That’s certainly the case for today’s corporations. But it’s also true for us as individuals. In order to accomplish our most meaningful goals, we need to fight back against two dangerous impulses: hewing too closely to a fixed plan and attempting to do too much at once.
For years, I’ve been grappling with the question of how professionals in an increasingly noisy and frenetic world can ensure their expertise is recognized.
For some networking meetings, the agenda is obvious: Your companies are considering doing business together, or you’re looking for a job and this person might help you get one. But many professionals find themselves in networking meetings where the goals are murkier. Perhaps a friend thought you’d hit it off with someone and introduced you, or you met the person briefly at an event and they followed up for indeterminate reasons.
We’d all like to spend our time at work on high-value activities: setting strategy, fostering innovation, mentoring promising employees, and more. But every professional faces a relentless deluge of niggling tasks — the overflowing inbox, the introductions you promised to make, the stack of paperwork you have to file, or the articles you really ought to read.
In a world where we’re bombarded with email, it’s disproportionately effective to connect with people face to face. Conferences, if you choose them wisely, can be one of the best ways to accelerate this process, since you can meet large numbers of people in just a few days. In fact, author Tim Ferriss describes attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in 2007 as being the “tipping point” for his best-selling book The 4-Hour Workweek because he was able to meet so many bloggers who later promoted it.
Most professionals build their network over time through proximity - people from your business school study group, or colleagues from your current company or past jobs. You may have a few outliers in the mix, but unless you’ve been deliberate about your networking, the vast majority of people you know probably work in the same field or industry as you. It may seem innocuous, but that inadvertent myopia can put you at serious professional risk.
You’ve weighed the pros and cons and carefully assessed the impact. After in-depth consideration, you’ve decided to accept that new job, or launch your own business, or take time off to be with your children. You know it’s the right choice - but your boss, friends, and colleagues aren’t convinced. What should you do when people you respect disagree with your decisions?
During vacation season, making even the slightest progress can seem like a Sisyphean task. You can’t schedule that important meeting, because the key players are on holiday. You have no idea where to find the data you need, because your analytics staffers are off the grid. And you can’t finalize the pitch deck, because your boss isn’t around to greenlight it. Being at work can seem pointless and frustrating when you’re the only one trying to keep things on track.
Sometimes the corporate culture in which we find ourselves doesn’t match our personality. Occasionally, that can lead to healthy creative friction; other times it creates painful pressure to conform. That was the situation facing one of my executive MBA students. “I’m having a problem at work,” she told me. “I keep getting feedback that I’m distant, and I think it’s harming my career.”