Become An Asset By Working On Yourself Ahead Of Your Connections
“Learn the difference between the people tending the soil and those showing up to pick the fruit.” — Anonymous
There’s a scene playing out these days online that mystifies me. For whatever reason, it’s become folklore:
Bigwigs holding court and time-suck sessions at the local Starbucks. While enjoying cups of jojo and giving the posses a contact buzz, who’s running their corporations?
Call me a skeptic, but supernatural mentors populating java joints? With nothing more pressing to do than spreading the love? Come on, man.
Before contacting a prospective mentor, ask yourself what you’re offering. With limited experience, this might seem daunting. Have faith in yourself and the value you bring.
Despite limited life and work experience, you may or may not be a go-to person and that’s okay. Look on the bright side of this stage of your development. Be a sponge and not above it all.
I’m not suggesting you volunteer to make coffee runs and break down the company Christmas tree. There will be tasks outside your job description that may seem like chores. It’s called work for a reason.
The real world loves to pitch curve balls. Expect them and roll with it. (Unless it’s boot camp and the gunnery sergeant orders you to scrub the floor with a toothbrush, you’re on your own private).
The position you’re looking to fill may not be available. It could have been dissolved or went to an intern (ouch), or another new hire. Besides, HR might feel you’re a better fit somewhere else. Roll with it.
Forget what they say, what you learned, and what you wish to believe. The priority of a business is not your career — it’s about building their brand, bottom line, and expanding market shares.
Don’t be discouraged by this outlook or fooled into thinking otherwise. Companies care less about you and more about them. Most think they’re doing the favor by providing a job and the money that goes with it.
I know it sounds cold, but it’s the truth. It’s the company that’s taking on the risk. Ownership is responsible for your salary, benefits, and other security. That’s the prism they’re looking through.
If the company stalls, fails, or goes under, you’re out of a job. Your boss could be ruined. Many have and often take years or a lifetime to recover.
Don’t worry about ownership’s anxieties and get busy. You’re there to contribute, learn, and gain experience. It’s up to you to make the best of it.
The company’s culture is out of your control. If you find it challenging, nurturing, and full of tough love, great. On the other hand, if it feels static, toxic, or bleak, you’re free to look elsewhere.
With few exceptions, real life doesn’t care about GPA’s and where you went to school. The ones who do forget that stuff once you start.
Real life is where results are in high demand and expected. It only cares how you apply the skills you have and the new ones your learning.
How do you face adversity, setbacks, and unhappy customers? How you handle responsibility and show initiative is big. How you coalesce with your co-workers and company culture. Are you a team player or a spotlight hog?
When you miss deadlines, fail to reach your metrics, or mishandle an order, do you own up or fish for excuses? Do you pass the buck and throw others under the bus?
People whom you’ve never met could be watching and listening. If so, they’re monitoring your actions, performance, and results. That’s the day-to-day in the real world.
On the other hand, do you muster the courage to face the fire and the consequences of your actions? Do you have the humility to look unskilled, unprepared, and inexperienced?
You never want to come across as selfish, foolish, or entitled. There might be policies in place that seem in conflict with one another. Be prepared for this stuff. Adjust and navigate. Everybody else is and that’s the way it is. Again, don’t object or protest — roll with it.
The transition from college campus to the working world is different and unique for each individual. The industry, size of the firm, and one’s position all enter the equation.
It’s a major shift. Are you moving to a new city, a foreign country? It’s an exciting time to be entering the business world. Embrace and enjoy it.
Never stop learning and educating yourself. Invest the time for your inner-student and treat this process like a side hustle — it’s that important and essential.
Study and stay in tune with your industry. Today’s times are the most progressive the work force has ever seen. Things are evolving at a rapid pace with new ways, platforms, and disruptors burning to hatch.
Show your mentors a willingness to participate and learn. Practice respect for their time, experience, and intelligence. Be gracious for their wisdom.
You don’t need the ambiance and optics of a Starbucks to make it official. Begin your correspondence through email. Ask intelligent questions and always be professional.
Highlight books, articles, and publications you have read. It will demonstrate maturity and a willingness to learn. An affinity for travelling the extra mile are traits and virtues of high-achievers.
They’ll take notice, appreciate your candor, and most of all, remember you for it. You’ll stick out for not being a burden. And it’s all natural.
Mentors have earned their status. They’re hard working, honest, and ethical. And they could smell a phony a mile away. They also know they’re being contacted (and interrupted from their schedule) to be some sort of mentor.
Become an asset. Assets grow and pay dividends for all involved. A liability is something that drains and takes.
A liability is the person who contacts the mentor as if they’re a connection and not a person. In their eyes, the mentor is obligated to their development. For no other reason than their own selfish and spoiled entitlement.
Don’t go there. Mentors will figure out soon enough who is showing up to work the soil versus who’s picking the fruit. Believe me, they’ll handle the givers and takers accordingly.
Yearn to provide. Develop a mindset to assist your mentors and confidants. In return, they will not only help you, they’ll remain in your corner — in most cases, for life.
As loyal as those people tending the soil, these people will enhance your life. Spend more time working on yourself than that shortsighted game of playing others.
Here’s another caveat. Sometime down the road and maybe sooner than later, you’ll be contacted. A recent graduate or someone looking to make a career change by entering your industry. And just like you, they’ll be looking for someone they could trust. Wouldn’t that be cool?