March 17, 2017

How To Get Ahead: Optional vs. Requirement

This has been a topic I have discussed with quite a few people the last few days- “How do I get ahead? I feel like I’m doing everything possible but nothing is working! Nobody is calling me back, I’m not getting responses, etc etc etc.”

I get it. I do.

You feel like you’re making no traction. And the thing may be that you’re making traction on the wrong road.

Let me share with you a couple personal examples…

 

Recently I was invited to a business appointment and it was my choice of whether or not I wanted to attend. I was interested because I wanted to serve in this capacity further. Other people were going to be there because they had to be there, but I was part of the group of individuals who were invited as a courtesy. Optional. A kind gesture. I mean, I didn’t have to attend but I thought it would be nice if I did (show interest, investment, and commitment by showing my face and making the effort). HOWEVER I was running solo in the parenting role, it was rather last minute, and I had to juggle a few things just to show up and make it happen.

In my gut, I knew I should go. Even if it was optional. So I made some phone calls and made arrangements, and ran around like a crazy lady in order to attend this appointment. In my head I was thinking, “I hope this was a good idea.”

Guess what?

All people who had to be there, were there. Of the people who were invited to attend (as courtesy), I was the only one there. So the next thing you know, I was being part of conversations and discussing ideas with everyone else.

I left the meeting giddy because I felt like my visit was worth my effort and time, because we all know that sometimes we leave places/events where we question whether our attendance was really valued or worth it (I have experienced countless… that’s another story). But you don’t know unless you go. #truth

As I left the appointment, I was confident that my next invite would not be a courtesy. I was going to be expected to be there and serve, which is exactly what I wanted.

 

After finishing my undergraduate degree, I was committed to continuing the pursuit in my graduate studies but finances overwhelmed me. Of all the schools I looked at, I kept narrowing it down to one school I was interested in attending because of it’s program, faculty, location, etc. But again- finances.

So I decided I was going to get a graduate assistantship in order to work for the university as an employee in lieu of them paying for my tuition. I wasn’t hoping for one, I was down right determined to get one.

The plan was made, I scheduled it into my calendar, and I even checked the weather to make sure there wasn’t going to be a wind or rain storm for convenience. I wore uncomfortable heels, a classic navy suit, and put on some lipstick so my teeth seemed even whiter and within the first two months of my enrollment in grad school, I was going door to door around the whole campus selling myself- for days weeks.

No stone went un-turned. I went everywhere. I did my research. I brought my resumes and shook a lot of hands. Some offices were closed, so I made a note to myself and I moved on. Other offices, I barely talked to anyone. Some administrative assistants were just so kind to see that I was trying so hard.

Dear caterpillar, don’t give up just yet. What you don’t realize is that… you are just about to FLY!

It wasn’t until the end of one day where I walked into my last “scheduled” building according to my plan. My feet hurt, I was getting tired of pitching, and I was ready to eat.  You know, getting HANGRY. Just keep it together, Laura. Treat these last pitches just like your first ones. 

And I did, and it worked. 

The last office I walked into was the exact office that told me there was likely going to be an unexpected position available mid-year, which was not typical. It was just approved to open up. I couldn’t believe it. I chit chatted for a bit and left my resume there. I followed up, eventually got an interview and then an offer. I accepted the position.

Why did I decide to walk around campus and introduce myself face-to-face? 

I did this because I didn’t want to be pushed to the side, which can be easily done through electronic applications and position searches. There are so many resumes!! Face-to-face gave me the upper hand. It should be noted that it’s not always possible to make face-to-face introductions and pitches, especially when applying to places out of town- but anything to give you that upper hand helps.

Anything that other people perceive as OPTIONAL should be a REQUIREMENT in order for you to get ahead.

If you want to get ahead, do what other people won’t do. Go the extra mile. Stay extra 15 minutes. Maybe email a key contact. Follow up. Show investment. Whatever. Figure out a way to stand out. Then do it.

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