This blog is the third in a series designed to give the next generations the tools they need to begin building leadership skills, now. Visit Growing the Next Generation of Leaders to read the start of the series.
In a previous blog, I mentioned my view that your career is a book, not merely a chapter of your life. I developed this view over time because of the amount of your personal investment that it takes to create a rewarding and meaningful career is significant and shouldn’t be underestimated.
It’s a very rare person who stumbles into the perfect career opportunity. Most of the time, your own growth relies on your effort, your planning and your willingness to invest the time it takes to build the skills and relationships that will take you to the next level.
Today, I offer you three ways to invest in building your book, whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’ve been at this for awhile.
Be curious. We all have days where we look up at the clock and realize it’s late afternoon and wonder where the day went. That kind of focus is fantastic, but I encourage you to not get so caught up in the day-to-day execution of work that you don’t make time to be curious. When is the last time you looked at a competitor’s website? How about read an analyst report about your market? Or (bonus points for taking a collaborative approach), talked to a colleague in a completely different part of the business to hear their perspective on an important initiative at the company?
Being curious could also be said as be ‘always learning.’ If reading books about business appeals to you, make time for it. If you’re an online explorer to gather insights from the industry around you, plan time for that. Or if you’re a networker at heart, schedule time to talk with colleagues. Whatever learning method you choose to stay current and grow your knowledge, give yourself a recurring calendar slot to learn and stick to it.
Find your passion. I know this phrase can be a little intimidating. Especially for our young people, there are a lot of messages out there that you should know exactly what your passion is, be naturally good at it, go into it as a career and everything will be perfect. Let’s do a little myth-busting on this.
Finding your passion truly means to figure out what gets you looking forward to starting your day and what you do that feels the most rewarding. Once you know those things, know also that they can change over the course of your career and new passions can become new chapters in your book. A passion also doesn’t have to be a career. For example, my passion is winning; specifically at relationships. Taking that next step in a relationship that breaks down a barrier to earning new business or building a new partnership – that’s exciting and rewarding to me.
I will never have a job title of Chief Winning Officer, but I can position myself to be involved in negotiations where building relationships leads to big wins for the company. Your passion can be at the core of what you do, not all that you do.
Execution beats innovation, every time. This phrase can be a little controversial, so let me explain. Yes, we need innovation in business, but without execution, innovation never gets off the drawing board and out into the real world. We need great ideas people, but we need a lot more people to execute on the great ideas. So be curious, be passionate, and know how to get the job done. No matter your level in your career, you can’t allow yourself to be in a position where you aren’t executing some portion of the work. Keep your sleeves rolled-up and be at the table with the team, collaborating and moving the work forward.
I hope that in my previous two blogs and in this one, I’ve given you some ideas to build a great book that will someday make up your career. As you reflect on these ideas, take some time to invest in yourself by asking the question, “what do I want to build as my next chapter?”