Today we’re talking about Pillar #2.
2: Congratulations, you’re head of career sales.
It’s entirely possible that this pillar might be the hardest for some of us in IT. As a whole, we may not tend to be the most social of people outside of our close-knit group of friends. Especially not at work, and perhaps most poignantly when first starting out as the first line of defense where everyone always seems to want a piece of you.
It can be daunting to think about IT-based social groups.
But the irony is this: The more you move around in groups of peers and thought leaders, the more you grow as an SME (Subject Matter Expert). And that is the EXACT reason to put on your sales hat and go meet some new people and build a network.
How is this helpful you ask?
Simple – when recruiters ask for people someone knows, you’re now ‘Oh, hey I met them at that OWASP meet up” or “Yeah, we met at Cisco Live – super cool person, great aptitude from what I could tell”. And don’t be afraid to attend an event. Everyone there (well, ok 99% of everyone there) is thinking the same thought in their head:
‘I shouldn’t be here, and I don’t know if I am good enough to even hang with this group.’
You’ll notice I said 99%. Because there is that other 1%. And they are that good, and you will definitely learn from them (this ties in with Pillar 6 as well).
Another function of Pillar 2 is that you MUST confront the awkward conversations that most of us just don’t want to have. Things like
“Hey, boss, why is it that I seem to get on-call and Jimmy doesn’t?”
“Hey, I’ve been here 18 months, and I haven’t gotten a raise.”
-or- perhaps the universal:
“When did you say the bonus hit?”
Because here is the thing – If you’re thinking it, and there are ten other people in your group, the other nine are probably thinking it. Being in charge of your career destiny is quite scary when you first start out.
For some of us, the concept of sales is BONE CHILLING SCARY.
But the funny thing is, the more you do it, the faster you start to consider your decisions and get a little bolder. Not cocky. Not stupid. But brave – willing to ask questions that might feel weird or stupid. I’M FANTASTIC AT ASKING STUPID-SMART QUESTIONS (but more on that later). Once most of us get past this odd societal ‘workplace stage fright’ something happens:
You gain momentum.
Just a little. Not all at once. But if you keep putting yourself out there, meeting new people, asking questions no one else will, you begin on the way to owning your career path. In a book I read years ago “Good to Great” – the author Jim Collins describes a well performing company like a heavy flywheel that’s 5,000 pounds (or, you know 2,262 Kg) that is 30 feet tall. Getting it spinning is initially very tough. But once you get going, it’s easier to go forward than it is to stop.
Your career is like that flywheel. Big. Seemingly impossible to move. But trust me, getting that forward motion is possible, and the more you push forward, the faster and farther you’ll go.
Just as a total sidebar, you can read about Good to Great’s flywheel concept (here) and as a preview to Pillar 4, you can read this amazing Freakonomics article about some of the Good to Great companies that suck or just flat out don’t exist anymore (here). And I’m not picking on Jim Collins – he’s a fabulous writer who pointed out what was working when the book came out like 15 years ago. I’m pointing out that if you get complacent – you have almost more work than if you never started.
But that’s another story for a later date.