Stepping Into The Right Space

Gone are the days of working somewhere for thirty to forty years. We have more exposure, options and opportunities than any generation before us and we’re not afraid to explore them. We want upward mobility within a defined timeframe and the moment we find that mobility to be outside our reach, we reevaluate how long we need to be in the role.

I know I’m speaking from an extremist point of view. There are many who are doing well in their jobs. I have friends who graduated from undergrad or grad school and have been working for the same place for five years and there is nothing wrong with that. But I also have friends who I can count on to jump from job to job every year or two. Both groups are valid. In this day and age, we need the stabilizers and the innovators, the creatives and the regulators. The envelope must be pushed but it cannot be eliminated.

Still, to those who regulate and maintain the boundaries, I challenge you to keep your options open. In the words of pop sensation Chris Brown, “these (companies) ain’t loyal.” I’ll say it over and over again. We have to, as individuals providing a service to a corporation, know our worth and, if that worth is unappreciated, we have to figure out either how that can be rectified or where it would be more appreciated. I believe in your ability to bring value into a space that you’re passionate about. The question is, are you willing to take the risk to find out where that space exists and then invest the effort required to be a valuable member of that space?

 

Make professional development a priority.

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Practice Makes Perfect

I have a longtime friend who just had her first interview in five years. She hadn’t been in the job market because she didn’t need to be. The thing is, you never know when you’re going to need to have sharp interview skills and, the best way to keep an ax sharp is to sharpen it ever so often. Even if you’re not looking for a job, I strongly recommend going through a couple interview processes a year, from submission of a résumé to the declining (or maybe accepting) of the position.

Whether you’re comfortable with your employer or you are your employer, you know the one thing that happens with all tables? At some point, they turn. Good can go to bad in no time. What do you do when you need to be able to sell your skillset but haven’t had to in half a decade or longer?

Need some interview tips? Check out these posts.

10 Questions You Might Ask In a Job Interview 
Career Coach: Dressing For Successful Interviews

 

Make keeping your skills sharp a priority.

Looking the Part

How do you prepare for big days?

I remember, as a boy, my dad taught me to take special care of my shoes. As a young man in the professional world, when I wore shoes to work every day, I polished them at least once a week. Now that I am able to wear sneakers and loafers on some days, I polish my hard bottoms less frequently but I still pay attention to their shine.

This post isn’t about shoes. It’s about being intentional in every aspect of your presentation. Press your shirts and trousers. Be able to select the appropriate socks. Have pen and paper that say, “I believe that what I am writing ought to be written with class.” Go into a meeting knowing you can not only meet with kings but also connect with them.

Life is too short not to be able to present yourself in a manner that commands respect. I’m not saying you always have to be in a full suit and tie but at least know how to do it and look comfortable and confident when you do.

 

Make looking the part a priority.

Every Level Isn’t For Everyone

“She has risen to the level of incompetence.” — Anon

I’m going to give you a tough pill to swallow: everyone isn’t meant to lead. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a calling/purpose and that doesn’t mean greatness doesn’t reside within you. But I do believe that everyone has a lane. That’s not saying everyone cannot lead someone else to greatness by way of mentoring. But everyone simply isn’t intended to take on the task of leading masses. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Shoot, as someone who often enters rooms and is asked to lead, I don’t always want the responsibility and am now at a stage in life where I will quite myself in certain settings in order to blend in (I learned the hard way not to stretch myself too thin and to helpfully say no instead of giving a harmful yes).

Know your strengths and pick a lane, ideally one that you can succeed in but one that will challenge you as you grow in it. And, if leading is something you want to do but something that doesn’t come naturally*, learn to do it.

 

Make knowing how you can best serve those around you a priority.

 

*I don’t believe in “natural” leaders. I believe some people may be more inclined to lead but everyone needs to learn to follow and everyone can improve on his/her leadership.

Options or Else

“Previous generations didn’t even know they wanted all these options. We’ve always known we have them.” — Deryle Daniels, Jr.

Newsflash: It’s not 1938 anymore. The generation that raised the generation who is managing/leading us taught our Baby Boomers  that the only option was to _____. Go ahead and fill in the blank. They were taught that there was an “only option,” which is no option at all and, if there was an option, it was a binary one: Do ____ or fail.”

Because of limited knowledge, opportunity, and vision (“Limited vision,” in this instance, is not a slight to them at all, just a reality. It’s very difficult for the mind to to envision that which it cannot even comprehend.), they didn’t know anything but what they knew. An imagination, at that time, was just that. Now, if I can imagine it, I’m sure I could see it happen over my life time. But I digress and am getting too philosophical. This post is about options.

For the past three decades (the entirety of my existence), there have been options. Abacus, calculator, pencil and paper, or mental math. Ross Perot, George H. Bush, or William J. Clinton. Video games, play outside, or read a book. Take this job, keep the one I have, or travel the world. HBCU, PWI, or community college. Electric toothbrush, manual tooth brush or… Actually, those are the only options unless you want a nickname like Yukmouth. As a leader of an organization, you have to recognize that people have options and you need to make them want to select yours. Why should they buy your product? Why should they work for your company? Why should they attend your educational institution? In 2018, a degree from UNCG can hold as much educational value as one from UNC and, if I play my cards right, can land me as good of a job.

In this day and age of information everywhere, it is a consumer’s market. You have to incentivize or you will lose customers, employees, and investors. Loyalty died when corporate America replaced the term “personnel” with “human resources” and when the bottom line began to grossly outweigh quality of product/service. Now that consumers know the power of their dollars, they will take those dollars to the lowest seller. Being aware of what they bring to the table, employees will take their talents to the highest bidder. Long lesson short, if you don’t show people that you value them enough to give them your all in hopes for the same from them, they will leave you.

I’m just trying to help you understand this before it’s too late. While most logical adults know nothing will ever be perfect, they also will hit a point where, if the bad outweighs the good, they’ll be headed out on the first thing smoking.

 

Make being the right option for your target market a priority.

An End to Exclusivity

Women shouldn’t be made to feel objectified in (or out of) the workplace.

Black people shouldn’t be made to feel like tokens in a room.

Gay people shouldn’t be ostracized in the church.

We should all be valued for the effort we put in but we don’t. Some feel used by their companies. Many feel unappreciated. And far more feel uncomfortable being themselves. If for no other reason than not wanting to get fired once you make it big, start developing good habits in the workplace. It matters.

Make inclusivity a priority.

LinkedIn Made Me Do It!

I just so happened to write today’s post via LinkedIn by mistake. Being that I’m a LinkedIn Advisor, in addition to assisting with the online platform, I often provide insight on professionalism within the workplace. Below, you’ll find a few screenshots of what the process looks like on my end, as well as get to see my take on business dress in from one day to another.

Tailored & Tapered 1031Tailored & Tapered 1031 BTailored & Tapered 1031 C

 

Make professional development a priority.