Over the past five decades, I’ve come to realize a simple principle: nothing happens to me unless it happens through me. You’re the pilot of your life, too. And when you accept that role, you’re new mantra becomes this: “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” When you’re competing in today’s job market, you need every competitive edge you can bring to bear. Adopting the pilot’s mentality and the self-confidence that goes with it is a great first step; you can’t leverage your strengths unless you believe in your power to reach your destination and achieve your goals.
The next step is to cultivate what I call the “Four Essential Values.” Each value is like the engine on a jet plane. When you have all four working in concert and at full thrust, you can reach your job destination smoothly and ahead of the pack. The values might seem quaint or old-fashioned, but when combined with a resolve to create your own destiny, they can give you an incredible boost in the job marketplace. Let’s look at each one.
1. Value excellence. “Excellence” is more than a buzz word. It separates those who think “just good enough is good enough” from those who believe that “just good enough is a starting point.” Continually think in terms of what you can do to improve the quality of whatever you bring to the job. Place it high on your hierarchy of values and businesses will clamor for your employ. The global reshuffling of manufacturing might come about through a commitment to continual improvement. The same goes for you: when you demonstrate a commitment to continually improving your skill set and knowledge base, you become the candidate of choice. If you’ve been in the workforce and you’re seeking a new job, show your commitment to excellence through your project portfolio and your interactions with your peers and managers. If you’re new to the workforce, highlight how continual improvement has been the driving force in you as evidence by your outstanding course work, volunteer work, internships, and the like. Show how you lead yourself to higher planes through an understanding that excellence is the only high-bar you accept.
2. Value mastery. Everyone learns on the job and masters their profession as they grow. The speed at which you achieve mastery depends on how much you value mastery. Like valuing excellence, valuing mastery is about never saying “I’m there…” No one is ever done perfecting their skill set and capabilities. Sure, you reach a point where you reach a threshold of competence and there’s a point of diminishing returns. But the world is changing at a dizzying pace and what’s mastery today may be old school tomorrow. Read, think, and interact. Commit yourself to staying on top of your field; better still – stay ahead of it.
You demonstrate your commitment to valuing mastery when you create stretch goals for yourself and aggressive milestones for getting hitting those goals. Show potential employers how you go well beyond what’s required in all aspects of your life – at work, in your vocation, and in your personal life. Show them how you equate mastery with success, and that you understand how success is a temporary state.
3. Value wisdom. A good head and a good heart are a powerful combination. A good head comes from seeking excellence. A good heart comes with becoming a master at whatever you are doing. Now add wisdom to the equation, and you become powerful force you were meant to be.
Wisdom begins with wonder. It’s the reward you get from the experiences that come when you are being ambitiously curious and willing to work hard to achieve your aspirations. Wisdom sets you free of your fears of failure; it teaches you to be flexible and open to new ideas, ideas that help you render more service and better quality service than your competition.
4. Value self-growth. Be willing to do whatever it takes to grow and expand as a human being. Without continual personal-progress, values such as excellence, mastery, and wisdom have no meaning. A cornerstone of self-growth is giving yourself permission to fail. You’re going to make plenty of mistakes, and each time you muster up the courage to admit that you’ve erred, you grow in ways unimaginable. (Assuming that you don’t keep making the same mistakes and hoping for a different outcome.)
When a potential employer asks you about your biggest failure, don’t run away and try to deflect the question. Rather, frame a failure in terms of what you learned and how you’d approach the situation differently in the future, so next time… there won’t be a next time. That’s self-growth in action.
When you value self-growth you radiate confidence and flexibility. You immediately convey that you’ve got your ego in check. People who value self-growth are more likely to be team players and team problem solvers rather than cowboys and grandstanders. And that’s what employers want above all—people who can work together to solve problems and thereby create new opportunities for the organization to be more efficient, effective, productive, and profitable.
Now you have the ingredients you need for getting great results in the job market, or in any area of your life, for that matter. You live up to the best that’s within you when you value excellence, mastery, wisdom and self-growth.
Finally, remember that you and your competition want the same thing. The only thing that distinguishes the victor from everyone else is that is that the victor knows what it takes to win and acts on that knowledge. You’ve got the knowledge; just aim for the stars.
Be sure to check out my latest article for the Huffington Post here. The Day The Factory Stood Still
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