In my previous article Career Growth Strategy (3), I stated that if you want to move ahead in your career, the third step to take is to “Learn to articulate ‘your’ story by highlighting how your differences are a tremendous asset.” The original four steps I introduced to build a long term career were as follows:
- Get comfortable in your own skin by celebrating who you are.
- Figure out what will get the company ahead.
- Learn to articulate “your” story by highlighting how your differences are a tremendous asset.
- Articulate how your unique talent, viewpoint, and approach would be a significant advancement for the enterprise.
Today, we look at the final step which serves as the connecting piece that brings it all together: (4). Articulate how your unique talent, viewpoint, and approach would be a significant advancement for the enterprise. This is really about making the case for why you and the company are a fit for each other.
The four steps I have outlined for long term career growth can be thought of as two simple formulas which must be adhered to in order to see any results. One out of four, two out of four, nor three out of four steps will work. It’s an all or nothing deal.
This is true for any great relationship. If you don’t understand yourself or the other, there is no hope. It’s like blind squirrels running around without knowing what they’re bumping into. Every now and then, they may get lucky and bump into some nuts, but for the most part everything is mere chance. Understanding yourself and the company are the key ingredients necessary for success. But, having the ingredients is not enough. Unless you can connect the ingredients of your story to the story of the company, it’s just wonderful ingredients without a recipe.
If you want to take it to the next level, you need to be able to articulate your story, and more specifically, you must be able to articulate how your story “connects” to the advancement for the enterprise. What we are talking about is putting the ingredients together in a recipe that you can actually do something with. Who you are, and what you can offer must be a match for where the organization is headed. Without this connection, there is no relationship. Many job-seekers, sales professionals, or consultants fail at this last step. They know themselves; they have studied the company; they can tell their story—but when it comes to articulating how their involvement benefits the enterprise, they can’t seem to put it altogether. All the raw ingredients are there, but there is no recipe.
The best way to connect your story to the needs of the enterprise is to figure out what the enterprise needs, and then to show how you will deliver. In a consumeristic society, “work” has become a “transaction” rather than “service.” Instead of focusing on how we can serve the enterprise, we think about how the enterprise can serve us. We think of what we will get in return for our service, rather than focusing on how we can serve. A fundamental shift must occur in our approach. Here are a couple strategies to keep in mind as you think about connecting your story to serve the enterprise:
1. Figure out the highest priorities of the organization, and target your talent at addressing those priorities.
More times than not, the seller knows everything about what they are trying to sell, but they can often be unaware of whether what they are selling meets the needs of the customer. The seller may believe in their product, be extremely knowledgeable about their product, and may be passionate when talking about their product. But it doesn’t meet the highest priorities of the customer. So what happens? There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors, but the hand inevitably goes up, and the enterprise is not interested. I’ve heard some say, “Sometimes the customer doesn’t know what they want, and it’s my job to inform them of their needs.” I’ve heard them continue on, by saying, “If they knew just how great my stuff was, then I just know they would want to buy.”
When it comes to your career, the product you are selling is “you” and “what you can do” in service of the enterprise—nothing more, nothing less. And when it comes to your career, if you take this kind of approach, 99 out of 100 times, the person who gets the job will be someone else, who understands the needs of the customer, and can show them how they are the right match that fits what the enterprise is looking for. Consider who you would hire/promote? Would you hire/promote the person who is the best fit to address your highest priorities? Or would you pick someone who isn’t aware of your needs, and is trying to convince you that they know your needs better than you do? It’s a no-brainer. If you’re going to prevail in getting the job that 99 other folks are trying to get, you must show how “you” and “what you can do” would be a significant advancement to the enterprise.
2. Adapt to the communication style of your audience.
This is where temperament comes into play in a huge way. Depending on your temperament, you will have a default style on how you address your audience (whether it is an individual, or it is a group of people). Understanding your default style and adapting to the way your audience hears and processes information is absolutely critical. In order to do this, there are certain temptations you need to avoid as you approach different people of different temperaments.
Guardians find it hard to resist the temptation to be formal, go-in-order, present everything they have prepared, and keep things according to schedule. If they are scheduled for 45-minutes, every minute, every slide, every anticipated question, and every line is planned and must be delivered. This may work well with other Guardians, for they prefer to keep things predictable. But, with the Rational, you may be trying to provide answers for questions, they are not asking. For the Artisan, they just want to cut to the chase and get to the bottom line. For the Idealist this approach may seem very rigid, rehearsed, and inauthentic.
Artisans find it hard to resist the temptation to play games, to have fun, to pull off the unlikely, and to close the deal. In their approach with others, they quickly size up the prospect, and use their instincts to find the quickest path for victory. For other Artisans, they see this approach, and enjoy the challenge, and can go along for the adventure. For others, however, this approach can be difficult. For the Rational, this approach may appear to be unintelligent and lacking substance. For the Guardian, they will feel disrespected, and will determine that credibility is lacking. For the Idealist, they will be suspicious of your motives, and will feel that you can’t be trusted.
Idealists find it hard to resist the temptation to be personal, to tell the whole story, create an emotional connection, and go by their feelings. In entering a meeting, their focus is to become “best friends” with the client. This may work well with other Idealists, but with the Rational, you may be annoying them by not keeping focused on how the strategy will lead to results. For the Artisan, they don’t care about you; they care about the immediate benefits. For the Guardian your approach oversteps too many boundaries, as they prefer to keep business as business, and leave anything personal outside of the enterprise.
Rationals find it hard to resist the temptation to keep things utilitarian, conceptual, strategic, and results-oriented. In every situation, they are ruthlessly pragmatic about utilizing means to achieve ends. With fellow Rationals, this approach works very well, but for others, this approach may not be well received. For Guardians, specifics, details, facts, and figures are important, and this approach is far too abstract for their taste. For Idealists, this approach may come across as being cold, and lacking any concern for people. For Artisans, who are looking for immediate, tangible outcomes, they may grow impatient with theoretical discussions and abstract concepts.
This concludes our series on Career Growth Strategies. I hope that the discussion we’ve embarked on has been helpful to you. I am confident that if you take the approach that we’re proposing that you will find yourself on a career trajectory that is fruitful and lasting. Building a satisfying career takes time, and it takes deliberate thoughtful intention. I hope that you will build a significant life that you can be proud of… May you pursue what you can do best!