Over the course of my career I've heard many gripes and grumbles from colleagues and friends who are unhappy at work, or in their career. Interestingly enough, the most common trait between every one of these people, is that they aren't doing anything to change it. The old saying comes to mind. "If you continue to do the same things, continue to expect the same results."
Before I ever jump into a discussion about changing something, I always want to know what's working, and what isn't. What's good, and what's bad?
Some things to ask yourself:
These are just a few things that I think people take for granted. We are all so conditioned to expect these things in the workplace. What if we didn't have them? I bet we would be a little more appreciative of our jobs if if the things that we expected to be there were taken away.
There are two extraordinary quotes that sum up my opinion on how you should advance your career.
"It's better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared." - Whitney M. Young, Jr.
"Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them." - Orison Swett Marden
I believe if you truly want to take it to the next level, then you need to take yourself to the next level first. Go to a bookstore and pick up a book on the topic that relates to the career you are pursuing. Do some pro bono work to get some experience under your belt, and to build up your portfolio or resume. Attend conferences, and talk to people who are already doing what you want to do. Remember, no one will hire you because you want to do it. They will hire you because you already have.
To be the greatest, think about people who have been the greatest. In the late 1400's to early 1500's, the great Michelangelo was a man who was in pursuit of his own legacy, riches and the divine like no other. He only took on jobs that would leave his mark on history. History says that Michelangelo only wanted to build world class sculptures, but he was also an Italian Renaissance painter, architect, poet, and engineer. Why did he do so many things? The official story tells us that he was commissioned by the Pope to produce works other than sculptures. If you dig a little deeper, you will find that he often had no money, and he took on other projects to get by. While he ultimately became the richest artist that has ever lived, he lived in poverty a good portion of his life. Struggling to get paid for his works, he became used to living like a poor man, often wearing the same clothes for 5 months straight. This never changed. He never indulged and wasted his money on unnecessary things.
I share this with you because I think we can learn from Michelangelo. Take from it what you will, but I believe we are in a time where we have to diversify, and still be great at what we do.
The United States is facing a challenge that it has never had to deal with before. With the advent of the internet, other countries are able to develop their skills seemingly overnight to compete for American jobs. For the first time, other countries are no longer willing to take a back seat to US led innovation. They are able to take advantage of the weak U.S. economy by either acquiring U.S. based companies on the cheap, or they are winning contracts due to being able to bid on projects at a much cheaper rate and still remain profitable.
Countries like China, India and Germany are rapidly becoming innovaters and they're developing a highly specialized workforce that can compete directly for American jobs. History does have a way of repeating itself and we have seen this situation before.
I don't believe large companies will be able to sustain at current levels. They will have to scale back significantly as they have maxed out their markets and are running out of companies to acquire to meet growth demands. Small businesses will have to operate on an international level with top tier corporate talent, and will compete directly with larger corporations. This is only my opinion.
One of the biggest mistakes I frequently see companies make, is they hire top notch talent, and then micro manage them. Would you commission Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of your house, and then stand over him while he works? I don't think so. Do your due diligance to find an industry expert to satisfy your business need, compensate them properly, create a comfortable environment, issue the marching orders, and let them go to town on your project.