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Stories You Tell Yourself About Your Career

Stories You Tell Yourself About Your Career

As we go into 2021, a lot is happening in the world. If anything, COVID hasn’t changed the pace of innovation. Competition is not slowing down. We live in a world of enormous change. This is good for your career because there are more opportunities. But it can also be bad for your career if you’re not the best-suited person for that opportunity.

Recently, I spoke to a client who works in the search engine division of a tech company. He said there was nothing he could take to his superiors that would get them excited about putting the investment in to grow their division.

When I have discussions with clients, clearly I can’t give them all the answers because I don’t know all the problems involved. When people talk about their problems, they usually sanitize it to make it sound like there’s really nothing they can do, and they want me to affirm their lack of options and say it’s not their fault.

In this particular case, it’s his career and it’s his division—he has a lot of opportunities, so he needs to do something about it.

You will be telling yourself stories as you go into the new year. Stories about why you cannot change your career. Stories about why you’re up against a tough peer at the office, an external competitor or an industrial giant. Be careful of the stories you tell yourself about your career. There are always ways to compete. The question is whether you can see it.

Do you have the wherewithal to work on putting together the business case over the next 20 days to convince your superiors to back you? When your board or your executive team doesn’t back you, it’s not their fault; it’s because you haven’t made the case. At the end of the day, if your company goes out of business because someone didn’t make the case to fight against competitors, you can’t use the argument, “Well, my board is too busy.” No, your job is to convince them.

I always ask clients to follow one of our anchor programs—one of our most powerful, relevant programs—called How to Sell >$10MM Consulting Studies. The Andrew Program. It’s a detailed program showcasing how we helped a senior manager at a professional services firm to reinvent his career, reinvent his company, and go from senior manager to senior partner in the space of three years, which is a pretty daunting task. It’s even more daunting when you consider he did it not by taking on a front-facing sales role, but by taking over a cost center in the firm, which he converted it into a moneymaker.

What’s interesting is the sequence of steps we guided him to take to create opportunities. One of the big insights, which you’ll see in the program, is that nothing is going to be given to you. No-one will build your career for you. I think a lot of people fail to grasp this. If you want to join a lucrative division or a money-making part of the business, it won’t be given to you unless there’s a reason.

With Andrew, we created a series of pilots so he could demonstrate that he could do what he wanted to do and build a coalition to back him so that he could incrementally get more and more responsibility. That’s a three year journey.

As you go into the new year, listen to the Andrew program. It’s a remarkable program because it speaks to the heart of why you’re reading this newsletter. At the end of the day, you want to make your company successful. But you also have to be successful. It’s one thing to put together a nice strategy for your company, but you also have to put together and execute the right strategy for your career.

This is an excerpt from Monday Morning 8 a.m. newsletter, issue #7.

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