Monday, June 29, 2009

Closing the deal

I realize that many of you are thinking that this entry is about sales. It is not. Rather, it is about execution of a plan, any plan. Do you aspire to have that managerial job? Or perhaps you're eyeing that roadster down the block in the driveway with the "For Sale" sign in it. And is that a model that I see sitting two tables down from me in this restaurant?

Regardless of the situation, you need a plan if you wish to reach your goal. And the first stage of any plan is understanding exactly what needs to be done and what the potential risks are that would prevent you from succeeding.

In sales this is called qualification. Everyone else calls it discovery or, simply put, asking questions. And it is essential to do this or else you run the risk of making an avoidable mistake because you simply didn't know any better.

What about that model? "Who is she?" (Check Google via your smart phone.) "What are her interests?" (Again, Google it.) "What is she eating, and do I know a good wine pairing?" "Are there any paparazzi waiting around outside of the door that she needs to be aware of?" Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to approach her and sound intelligent enough to catch her interest.

You also need to understand the risks in each situation. "Is it true that she's married to Vin Diesel?" "Is that her lesbian lover that she's kissing?" Either of these are a show stopper, obviously, but if you weren't aware of her marriage to the esteemed Mr. Diesel and he shows up while you're hitting on his wife then it will probably be more than just a spurned advance that you'll receive in response.

There is a cliché that says, "you have to learn how to walk before you can run." My response to this is that before you can walk, you need to know not only where you're going but what the best method is to get there. Understanding the answers to these questions will provide you a head start in successfully executing your plan of action.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Me! Me! Look at me!

"Me! Me! Look at me!" How many times has this been you at work? Never? I'm not surprised. Few people like to call attention to themselves at their place of employment; this is doubly so during times of economic turmoil where the job market is tough. Yet this is exactly the time to call attention to yourself.

Let's face it: anonymity gets you nowhere. Even were the economy booming and the job market rife with new opportunities like a newly sodded, fertile garden, it is the early bird that gets the worm; the squeaky wheel that gets the oil; the ambitious professional that gets the raise or the promotion.

Before continuing, the obvious should be noted: there is such a thing as good attention and bad attention. This isn't Hollywood where any media presence is good for your career. In fact, bad attention can be disastrous for you in certain situations.

So how do you stay on the radar of those around you that have the ability to influence your professional career? Here are a few thoughts culled from my years of professional experience.

Do be an entrepreneur. I'm not suggesting for a moment that you should quit your job and open up that coffee shop in the empty corner store that you've been eyeing for years. What I am suggesting is that you keep your eyes open. If you see something that needs to be done; you have the ability to do it successfully; and it is something that has a quantifiable amount of value to your department, division or company then do it as long as it doesn't affect your ability to fulfill your normal, day to day responsibilities. (I stress the word "quantifiable" so that you can use it to justify your next raise. See my blog entry Everyone is in Sales for more on this topic.)

Do ask for additional responsibility. Whenever I think of this, I involuntarily cringe at the vision of working until 10pm or later every night, akin to first year law students who burn the midnight oil or get dropped from the program. This isn't so. In fact, if you find that you are playing Flow, Ikariam, or other games during the day then you probably already have the time to do something extra to highlight yourself in the eyes of your boss.

Don't point out problems. Simply highlighting a deficiency in the work environment does nothing but make you look like a complainer. However, if you have a possible solution in mind then be sure to bring up both parts of this equation to the appropriate individual. Be prepared, however, for them to think they have a better solution and to assign the task of implementing their solution to you.

Don't assume that these thoughts are an elixir for your career. It is critically important that you realize that every situation is different. As such, any advice you receive should be viewed in the light that it may be spot-on, may need some adaptation, or may not work in your specific situation. Caveat emptor to be sure, but if you have the motivation then maybe some of these ideas will help you get ahead in your current job and in your career

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everyone is in Sales!

Regardless of whether you are in sales as a profession; accounting; IT; etc. you are in sales. Are you aware of this? Of course, you probably aren't...until you discover that there is something you want.

Whether you are seeking a raise, a promotion, or (especially) a new job, you are thrust into a position of selling yourself and the value you bring to an organization. "Why should I give you a raise / the new responsibilities / a job?" they ask.

How do you answer? This age-old question is similar to the philosophy of how an effective resume is written, as told to me by Tom Espeland the former CIO of Viacom. Tom, who is a good friend of mine, once held a career seminar years ago for college youth and spent more than a few minutes describing the attributes of a good resume.

Of all of the things he said, the one thing that has stuck with me throughout the years is: state the impact you have had on an organization and you'll catch someone's eye. Don't just talk about your job responsibilities. Just as it is said that "faith without works is dead," you shouldn't expect anyone to take your works on faith. If you can't tell them, preferably in dollars and cents, what you've done to make an organization better then you probably need to rethink your approach before you ask for that meeting or interview.

So stop thinking about your responsibilities that await you tomorrow when you go into the office. Think instead of the impact you're having on the people and the organization around you.