Have you caught yourself staring at the milk carton or the salad mix in your refrigerator searching for that elusive expiration date? Or maybe if you are like me, once you have detected that impossibly minute imprint, you have to engage in the gymnastic hand stretch (hey, just found another use for the selfie stick) to get the aging retina into focus! And then make that critical decision. To consume or discard?
Now imagine you are the milk carton (hang in there, I promise this will make perfect sense soon) and the consumer making that decision “to be or not to be” is your employer? But, unlike the milk carton there isn’t any obvious “best before” date imprinted on you (if there is, well Houston you have a different problem). Yet the decision for a promotion or a bonus or that ugly layoff is based on these very criteria. Ditto for a hiring manager who is looking at your resume and figuring out your best date to justify a go / no-go.
So, where am I going with this? We all have a “best before” date that the beholder sees. And it may not even be consistent across business decision makers. But it is there nevertheless. She, complete with all her biases, is making this decision unbeknownst to us. And just like the hapless milk carton, we are at her mercy. Or are we? What if can regain control and maybe transform ourselves from milk (or salad) to say wine. Getting better with every passing day.
The better after expedition. Can it even be done? #YouBetcha
But in order to do that, you need to transform your thinking and think outside the carton. Here are my tips (promise they worked for me, embrace them they will work for you too!)
- Gather feedback consistently and constantly – No – not those inane 1:1 with your manager where each of you cringe when the calendar reminder hits! No – use the Start, Stop, Continue questioning with your colleagues (heck reach out to ex-colleagues too!). What is working – Continue on, What is a total blind spot – Start now and What you should cease and desist immediately – Stop please. #ActNow
- Build social proof – Try this out for fun. Do a Google Search on yourself (or putting my tech ethicist hat on do a DuckDuckGo search instead). Do you show up on this first page? The second? The results may be a wake-up call for you! Why is this important? Because if your resume claims you to be a prolific speaker at industry events, this would be the first thing I would do to validate that. The journey to get from who you really are to who you think you are is undoubtedly hard. Hey – I am living proof. An entire folder of rejection emails for my writing, speaking, singing (did I say that I try everything). It is only in the past couple of years the wheels have started spinning.
- Network with a twist – While there are books and HBR articles and TED talks on the power of professional networking, I personally think that networking to give unselfishly rather than take for a personal agenda sets you apart. And giving with no expectations in return. Sounds idealistic and harebrained even? Trust me on this. I have been on every which side. Taking. Dealing with takers. Inspired by givers. And finally – with all sort of misgivings initially – becoming a giver. I tell you, for instance the feeling is unsurpassed when you connect two people that you believe would benefit from a professional association and you see sparks flying.
That’s it. Learn about yourself, Align perception with reality, Connect others. And see your Best Before fade into nothingness as the Better After takes command.