What’s the best job you could land as your first foray into the working world once you’re out of college? The answer isn’t the coveted paid internship at Google. It isn’t investment banking on Wall Street, although you may be tempted when the sequel returns Gordon Gecko to the big screen. And, avoid “consulting” since consultants don’t actually do anything.
This advice is brought to you by Guy Kawasaki, courtesy of last Sunday’s New York Times.
Since the current CEO of IBM started as an intern there, I’m not sure the Google spot would be a bad choice. However, Guy’s point is this. You want the chance to witness leadership and decision-making up close. Whether it’s your family’s business or a start up with a guy who graduated two years before you and has $100,000 to build a better social networking site, it’s the up close and personal that will serve you the rest of your days.
Because I know so many people “starting over,” in their careers, I can see how valuable Guy’s advice is – no matter when you collected your last college degree.
Title doesn’t mean that they’re the leader
Another way to put it is: get close to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, as my mentor Tony Parinello calls the person at the top of the company totem pole. That could be the owner of a company, president, general manager, or whatever the title at the top of the organizational chart (which may not exist in a small company, but you know what I mean).
In a small environment, you are more likely to get the opportunity to pitch in and help out, even if the task is above your pay grade. Sharing Subway sandwiches with everyone in the company at 11 PM while mastering the last video clip and tidying up the office for a prospect’s visit, and watching your VITO practice his or her presentation – that is invaluable.
You are also more likely to get a combat promotion, that is, get a better job than you might deserve because you aren’t battling layers of management above you.
This advice comes with a warning!
The potential of sharing air at the top of the company totem pole only manifests itself if you have the one magical ingredient that makes anything possible in business: hard work.
If your personal brand includes a stellar work ethic, evidenced by your volunteering to put your dinner plans on hold and the ability to cancel a vacation without steam coming out of your ears, you can do this.
If you’re still in the planning stage of your career, you probably think great success is made up of great ideas. That’s ridiculous. When you are successful, you know that it’s just hard work. Anyone can have a great idea. Only a few have what it takes to “grind it out,” as Guy puts it.
In my organization, the head of our social media practice has a degree in equine business. That is the business of bossing horses around – just kidding. It’s an MBA-style program using the business of horseracing as the subject of a multi-faceted business curriculum. But it’s not her degree that matters as she ascends to partner status with us.
It’s her personal commitment to work hours on end to get just the right clip, shot, tweet, broadcast guest, quota of followers or friends (a quota she sets herself) that makes her the person I most want to have with me when big deals are coming down. There is simply nothing I wouldn’t trust her to do, and nothing she would put before the interests of our clients. The exception to that rule would be her dog, but he comes to work.
To land the job that sets (or resets) your career trajectory: there has never been a better time for you to benefit — if your personal brand promise includes hard work, initiative, resourcefulness and collaboration.
Guy is right – in terms of industry or department silo, it doesn’t matter where you start or find yourself right now.
The good news is: if you’ve got the right stuff there’s very little competition. The bad news is if you don’t. Personal brands are you tough enough?