Last week, I gave a talk for the Young Leader Series. Normally, I talk about startups and Entrepreneurs, so this was a unique experience for me.
I can safely venture to say that they chose me because I seem approachable and successful in what I do. Of course, I am not Mark Zuckerberg. Just an average dude – with a wife who is smarter than me and a couple of adorable kids.
However, before I was even able to walk, I wanted to do things rather smartly than others. I have managed to build and sell around 15 companies. I have launched a multi-dollar business and been teaching Entrepreneurship for more than 4 years in high schools.
When people inquire how I did it all, I casually wave my hand and pass it off as a fluke of luck. And I am not just being modest here, it is 90% true after all. Of course, luck takes a grand part in your life, but if you learn some things that can high-octane your career and personal life, letting you be the master of your fate, what else can you ask for.
So, here I am, sharing some valuable career lessons and how you can sky-rocket your calling by these simple tips.
1. Never miss a chance to show-up
In the movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ – when Will Smith arrives for a final interview, the interviewer asks his colleague for his two cents on the candidate. He casually replies “I cannot judge his personality, but yes he showed-up in my office a couple dozen times.”
When Gary V – a serial Entrepreneur and an internet sensation, gushes about ‘Doing the same stuff every day’, he means that even if you’re not getting any results, you need to persevere, repeat what you failed at with a new approach, and learn from it.
Seth Godin talks along the same lines in his book ‘Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?’ Learn to love losing. But for that, you need to learn when to show up, and you must knock on every door along your way, lest one was a gateway to success.
Be it business or your personal life, if you find a door specially designed for you, the smartest approach is to knock that door down with your best blow. If you’re looking forward to a job that you love, you need to update your resume and send it to the right people. Instead of sending to just 4 people, why not pick 40 and email your CV to them. The more the merrier!
What is Microvation? To microvate is to sign-up for things that no-one else is willing to get their feet wet into. Richard Branson once said, ‘If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!’
There is no need to run away from projects or jobs that you’re not acquainted with. When I ventured into a full-term writing career 2 years back, did I know a thing about how to persuade people with my writings? Or how to reel in my readers? I didn’t even have a glimpse of what storytelling is all about. But, what I had was microvation; an uncanny knack for figuring things out. I signed-up for crappy jobs, sometimes even working as a junior sales boy or a delivery boy for an ecommerce website.
What I learned through my ordeal was that no job is too big or too small. There are only two types of jobs. One, in which you’re motivated to do everything. Every single task feels like adding a small piece in the grand picture of a jigsaw puzzle. And another in which you’re downright bored. I am talking about taking these jobs and projects and bringing them to life. Learn from them and move on swiftly before you get too comfortable. The good thing about microvation is that when you take the initiative to do things that other people shy away from, people start seeing opportunity and potential in you.
4. Jot down everything
No. You’re no Einstein. Neither am I. This is why instead of relying on my memory, I keep a journal and make a note of everything, from ideas that pop-up unceremoniously and problems that plague me, to solutions I unravel in my shower or during my ponderous musing sessions in bed. From people I encountered in the day, to how much Coffee I guzzled down, where I channeled my finances, and how I felt on my way home in the subway; my journals replay my days down to the tiniest details.
By cultivating this habit of journaling, you will be able to commemorate the most significant things and events of your day. This small habit helped me save on a $5,000 payment which I thought was due, but when I checked my journal, it was already paid with.
Being a note taker will establish a reputation in your company. If you constantly jot down the minutes of a meeting, or perhaps the personality traits that you have observed in your new co-worker, you’ll be able cope better in your work environment. The silver lining is that you’ll be able to handle your co-workers in a more appropriate manner.
5. Master Sales
If you know how to sell, you’ll never worry about money.
One good reason to master the art of sales is that they’re the highest paid people in every company. Most Entrepreneurs once excelled at sales. As a business consultant, I have to contend with visiting clients, and these are mostly salespeople who are closing the deal for their respective companies.
From Los Angeles to Seattle, New York to Tampa and back, wherever you’re planning to meet people, you need to hone in on your sales skills upfront, lest you end up with putting forward a crappy pitch.
Salespeople have to face a lot of rejection in a life, which makes them a tough cookie after a while, and they learn to do the same things in more ways than you can count. They ace the art of communicating an idea with clients and fostering a bond with the client, rather just simply selling them on the myriad merits of the product.
6. Be a Linchpin
Linchpin is a person who is vital to an enterprise or an organization. In the digital realm, a linchpin translates into someone who can code, design, market, write, and close a sale; the jack of all trades you may say. These people rarely exist but you can try to be in their shoes and become an indispensable asset to your company.
When one talks about a career shift, you will inevitably be thrown into a conundrum as to which career path you are willing to pursue. If you get your hands wet across various skills and disciplines, it will be easier for you to decide which career path solicits most of the skills that you have acquired.
There’s a tremendous amount of power in being a one-person execution machine. While the world is brimming with “idea people”, only a few audacious souls dare to dream, design the thing, bring their ideas to realization (even if it’s cobbled together from 3rd party tools — in fact, those are often the best solutions), and sell it to a wide audience. While it makes it harder for you to talk about what you do, it’s really powerful.
7. Read everything that comes to you
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
Apart from high school education, there is a constant need to educate yourself on the latest happenings around you. At least once every week, I visit the nearest bookshop, pick a random subject, and peruse through pertinent books.
As a student, you will be required to read a lot. It is not necessary to be a know-it-all, but it goes in your favor to know a little bit of everything, be it marketing, negotiation, design, content, and business strategy.
Many renowned companies including Zappos.com, have introduced a ‘culture of learning’. If you take up a course in Zappos, your salary will see a boost since you have taken a step forward and acquired a new skill.
It has been a year since I switched from just a designer to a Creative Director, and my salary has tripled. And all this was possible because I read a lot. Not just something related to my field, but everything that I come across.
Lots of people complain about not having mentors, or a plan from their company to help them learn. But pay a visit to your nearest bookstore or library or an online blog, and you will have all the mentorship that you will ever need.
While none of these is a golden ticket to a sustainable career, but not following these tips will surely drive you to a path that has been taken too many times. If you want to upsurge your career, make sure that you develop several skills & travel the road less traversed.