At the beginning of every semester I ask the students in my aviation job targeting class “why should I hire you?” I can usually make it through a room of about 25-30 students with only one or two getting the right answer. The vast majority give me some sort of pithy comment, or senior superlative about how they will make a difference, be a hard worker, or some other phrase that the last 500 job candidates also used. After we have fun with the our little exercise, for which I use a rather loud game show “wrong answer “buzzer app on my phone, I proceed to tell them how to get hired.
They need to demonstrate how they will add value. We fail to demonstrate when we tell the employer how awesome we will be – but by demonstrating a history of performance where we have added value elsewhere, employers begin to think “well if he did that well there maybe he can do that for us.”
Author Mark Sanborn, in his book Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed when times are Good, Bad and in Between, says that value is the currency of commerce (82). He says that organizations and individuals who get left behind are the ones who are not delivering what the marketplace or the employer values (Sanborn 82). Those who do the best, know how to recognize and create value, whether they are the employees of the company, the employer or, very importantly an entrepreneur. Sanborn quotes author and retired managerment professor Michael LeBoeuf who said that “people only buy solutions to problems and good feelings.” I will add to that, that if you can provide both you are on your way to a customer for life.
To be successful whether you are up, down or sideways you need to constantly fill your pipeline with customers, projects and relationships (Sanborn 96-97). In the entrepreneurial world we call these “multiple streams of revenue.” That way, regardless of where you are, you always have options. You either have another customer in line, another project on deck, or a great relationships to build another project or another customer with.
With relationships however things get tricky. You must constantly connect and take care of your connections through love and service (Sanborn 97). This means understanding those you serve and making it about them (Sanborn 108-109). This concept works whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. If you are an employee and you see the furloughs around the corner it is time to start demonstrating your invaluable-ness. Either become an expert in something or do it better than everybody else. You must accept that the status quo is a myth (Sanborn 100). Remember the guy in the movie Office Space, who did not want his stapler taken away? That strategy will not work for long-term employment (nor for keeping your stapler).
Remember that your competition is always working to get better than you. What have you done today to stay a step up? (Sanborn 109)
Sanborn says he does not believe in best practices (111). Best practices sound great but the truth is these are only the best practices for now based on a given set of circumstances (Sanborn 111). Today’s best practices are next months obsolete practices and soon everyone will be aware what they are, and you will lose your competitive advantage. Be innovative – figure out how you can do what everybody else is doing in their best practices, but then do them even better. Then figure out how you can change the game, like brining Netflix into a Blockbuster world, or the iPad into the laptop world (Sanborn 112).
When times get tough the best way to survive is to build-in resilience, and I in this case I’m not just talking about some internal motivational drive I’m talking about cold hard cash. The best financial advice you will ever get is this spend less than you make. When times get tough, you need financial reserves to fall back on. In fact, the worst time to look for a job is when you absolutely are desperate to have one.
Finally, understand that there are only two pains in life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret – Jim Rohn. They both hurt but in the pain of discipline you at least get what you want. Discipline is not easy but it drives all the processes that create results (Sanborn 150). And discipline has a shelflife. We can only focus and force ourselves to do something for a period of time before needing a rest. Using all of that willpower fatigues are willpower muscle, so make sure that you are using your muscles to do the heavy lifting. Focus first on the major projects, the most important things you must accomplish that day, rather than catching up on email and all of the other little distractions of life. By focussing on the petty stuff first, pretty soon you’ll find that your email inbox is only half empty and you’ve burned of all your willpower for the rest of the day.
Focus on your highest priorities first. Use your willpower muscles for the heavy lifting. Create the new best practices. Always look for where and how you can add value, then you’ll be in good shape whether you’re Up, Down or Sideways.
Sanborn, Mark. Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed when times are Good, Bad and in Between. 1. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011. Print.