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- Friday, January 4, 2013

Career Mistakes done by Capable People


I received a Job offer last week asking me if I was interested to work in Malaysia. It is a Car Manufacturing Company and they wanted me to do some Supervisory task to lead a group of people in a small project. The Job is something about machine installation and configuration. Actually it was a surprised that is why I asked them how they found my contact number. They told me that they got it from headhunters  and I guess perhaps from my online portfolio. So I immediately reviewed my latest resume and thought of revising it somewhere to make it more presentable to that employer. As I searched along the web on how can I improve my resume, I stumbled upon an article created by Greg McKeown; a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, so I read some of the lines and eventually made me interested to read along. So I guess it would be nice if I could share it with you. Here is the unEdited article;

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I recently reviewed a resume for a colleague who was trying to define a clearer career strategy. She has terrific experience. And yet, as I looked through it I could see the problem she was concerned about: she had done so many good things in so many different fields it was hard to know what was distinctive about her.

As we talked it became clear the resume was only the symptom of a deeper issue. In an attempt to be useful and adaptable she has said yes to too many good projects and opportunities. She has ended up feeling overworked and underutilized. It is easy to see how people end up in her situation:

Step 1: Capable people are driven to achieve.

Step 2: Other people see they are capable and give them assignments.

Step 3: Capable people gain a reputation as "go to" people. They become "good old [insert name] who is always there when you need him." There is lots right with this, unless or until...

Step 4: Capable people end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be their highest point of contribution which I define as the intersection of talent, passion and market (see more on this in the Harvard Business Review article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less). Then, both the company and the employee lose out.

When this happens, some of the responsibility lies with out-of-touch managers who are too busy or distracted to notice the very best use of their people. But some of the responsibility lies with us. Perhaps we need to be more deliberate and discerning in navigating our own careers.

In the conversation above, we spent some time to identify my colleague's Highest Point of Contribution and develop a plan of action for a more focused career strategy.

We followed a simple process similar to one I write about here: If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will. My friend is not alone. Indeed, in coaching and teaching managers and executives around the world it strikes me that failure to be conscientious about this represents the #1 mistake, in frequency, I see capable people make in their careers.

Using a camping metaphor, capable people often add additional poles of the same height to their career tent. We end up with 10, 20 or 30 poles of the same height, somehow hoping the tent will go higher. I don't just mean higher on the career ladder either. I mean higher in terms of our ability to contribute.

The slightly painful truth is, at any one time there is only one piece of real estate we can "own" in another person’s mind. People can't think of us as a project manager, professor, attorney, insurance agent, editor and entrepreneur all at exactly the same time. They may all be true about us but people can only think of us as one thing first. At any one time there is only one phrase that can follow our name. Might we be better served by asking, at least occasionally, whether the various projects we have add up to a longer pole?
Capable People Career Mistakes

I saw this illustrated some time ago in one of the more distinctive resumes I have seen. It belonged to a Stanford Law School Professor [there it is: the single phrase that follows his name, the longest pole in his career tent]. His resume was clean and concise. For each entry there was one impressive title/role/school and a succinct description of what he had achieved. Each sentence seemed to say more than ten typical bullet points in many resumes I have seen. When he was at university he had been the student body president, under "teaching" he was teacher of the year and so on.

Being able to do many things is important in many jobs today. Broad understanding also is a must. But developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage. Instead of simply doing more things we need to find, at every phase in our careers, our highest point of contribution.
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After reading this article by Greg McKeown, I later realized that I would rather continue supporting my Family's business which is Maxmedia Enterprise rather than moving to another career (Working OverSeas).  This is because something just switched on me when I read the idea stating that "If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will", so if I will not find a way for my own career then somebody might do it for me. That I don't want to happen in me. This is because I saw myself where I am good at and I think that is Entrepreneurship, that is going straight to business is my way to make myself happy.

It has been I while (about a year) that my family trusted me to manage the business and everything is doing well, although the business is still struggling to stand financially stable, but I see how the business grow with my supervision. I am learning new things everyday, actually it is a never ending learning for me. Each and every day I encounter things, learning new ideas, meet new people... etc...

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