Lean in. Break the glass ceiling. Move the needle. Be assertive in negotiations. ABC (Always Be Closing!)
So many of the “rules” of winning business and advancing up the career ladder are about a show of force. And it’s true that people who are strong, or who show confidence, often advocate better for themselves than people who are self-effacing and meek.
But while these concepts do really well for self-help bestsellers like Anthony Robbins and Sheryl Sandberg, there are other, quieter qualities that are beginning to emerge into conversation — not because they’re new, but because they are more holistic and better for the universe. Call me woo-woo, but I’m glad to see these qualities being recommended by experts. The people who already practice them are probably already better human beings than those who don’t. Turns out, they might be better prospective hires as well.
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Kindle hope, not fear
Rosalind Tompkins calls herself a “hopeologist” and organized the Hope Challenge as part of her mission to empower and impact people in many areas of their life. While her work is more focused on addiction recovery than career development, her “hope chats” are somewhere between counseling and life coaching when it comes to their methodology. Listening, encouraging and empowering are three of the crucial steps. And according to Ms. Tompkins, her team members are often able to support people in finding employment simply by rekindling their flame of hope.
If, either by choice or by chance, you’re in a long stretch of applying for paying work, it can be very difficult to keep a spark of optimism going. And if your career entails constant, ongoing pitching and proposals, you need to maintain a balance of hope and realism in order to carry on. Some people build defensive walls or a jaded attitude to protect themselves from disappointment. But in the moment, when you’re trying to convince a company to spend money on you, a flame of excitement and belief can tip the scale in your favor.
Business publications often discuss hope in the context of optimism — widely considered to be a “healthy” mental habit for life and career leadership. And other healthy habits, it can become easier with practice according to experts.
Show generosity, not egoism
I’ve discussed generosity before, as I very much advocate it as a general approach to life and career. Many business outlets and career experts agree that generosity is a powerful networking tool — Trello blogged on it in the “6 Rules of Remote Engagement for Professional Networking,”; Inc. once called it “the most powerful” of networking practices, and Harvard Business Review advises it “can make your career.”
Yet, generosity is not an intuitive direction for many people. For a variety of reasons — some quite well founded — people, especially those in competitive careers, choose to be territorial, passive-aggressive, cautious, or even cutthroat. It seems like these are more straightforward and direct ways to protect your turf. And in certain situations, such as when several strangers are vying for one job, this is probably true. But in many others, being generous builds bridges, expands one’s circle of influence, and shines a positive light beyond you.
I recently cast a female chef for a food video, and when my client wanted to do a follow-up project (a larger one) we decided to hire the same chef and have her choose her own sous chef and assistant. For both spots, she could have deliberately chosen people who were not as experienced as her, or not charismatic enough to divert attention. Instead, she chose two women of her exact same profile, including one who currently has a TV show. A territorial or cautious person would have not done this. They would have feared that their client’s loyalty might stray. They would fear that they would lose the spotlight. They would have operated from a place of fear.
This woman’s choice worked out to the best for everyone, because when the client saw her and her two colleagues working together with wonderful chemistry and obvious friendship between them, it raised their perceived value from individual to an entire unit that could be brought into other divisions for larger projects. And the original chef showed herself to be a great connector — and therefore a great asset.
Be of service to others
When you say you want create a career that allows you to be of service to others, most people will wonder whether you mean customer service. In many professional settings, customer service is the only type of designated service role that exists. However, people who have a connection with the military or an organized church know that there’s a much broader definition and deeper definition of service than assisting customers (though that extremely important to a successful business).
The military serve and protect their country and its people. And when religious people speak of a life of service, they are talking about caring for and giving to others. Sometimes this is specifically volunteering time to help the less fortunate, but it’s also general attitude about how to help and support all the people around you.
Healthcare professionals and educators have chosen careers in a life of service. But when does it benefit a business career to take an attitude of service to others? Possibly the most when you’re actually at a senior level. Because when most people reach senior level, they don’t want to deal with menial tasks. They don’t have time.
They aren’t always patient to newbies. However, to paraphrase one of Maya Angelou’s favorite sayings: People may forget what you said, but they remember how you made them feel. If you are patient and helpful to an associate who is confused by something; or if you take time to support your team by helping with the extra duties that are technically beneath you; or if you do something as simple as grabbing lunch for your colleagues on a busy day, they will feel that you’re looking out for them. That you are supporting them in ways that go beyond a paycheck. And they will remember it in the short term, and when they rise through the ranks, and when they disperse to different positions where possibly someday they’ll be in a position to return the favor.