Managing Your Own Career

A while back, Ashley and I got the pleasure of meeting John Porcaro, Director of Marketing for the XBOX 360.  It was the first time I got to meeting someone whose blog I followed before ever knowing them (I'm still waiting to cross paths with Scoble and Penelope, two of my other unofficial career advisers.).  While John is the curator of the GamerScoreBlog, he also has his own marketing blog, which is how I originally found him.  He slacked off for about a year but - suddenly - has come back to the blogging world (welcome back, John)!

Waaaaaaay back when... a looooong time ago, John posted this about writing employee reviews.  The post is tailored to the way Microsoft does their employee reviews, but there is a lot that you can gleam from it regarding how to act at work.

Four years later, he returns to the concept.

Go read those posts, then continue on...

What I really like about John's suggestions is that they are practical and relational.  It's easy to get caught up in the fear of a career going badly, so we end up trying to be mediocre.  A few of his thoughts that I'd like to expand upon:

Sometimes Mistakes Can be the Best Thing: This is so true.  Mistakes happen; we're human.  But what makes a great employee is one who can recover from a mistake.  If we mess up and decide to just drop everything... then we come out looking bad.  Mistakes are opportunities.

Doing your job really well will make you mediocre: Yes, yes, yes.  To pull a quote from the post:
You were hired to do a job.  You’re being paid to deliver results that are worth a lot of money to the company.  Your reward for doing everything you committed is collecting your paycheck.

Yes!  Look - I, of course, love the idea of incentives and bonuses.  And, if you bring in way beyond the expected value to the company, I think a nice bonus is great encouragement.  But, ultimately, we are NOT entitled to a paycheck.  We have to work for it.  If I aimed to just do my job really well, I wouldn't have nearly the amount of fun that I get to do.  Open Access isn't in my job decription, neither are the LifeWay Conversations.  But going that extra mile means I get to have so much more fun and - in the process - acquire the skills needed for where I want my career to take me.

Make It About You: This is one that I struggle with, especially in light of the culture where I work.  We're all too humble.  It's awkward trying to say, "Hey!  Look what I did!"  It's looked down upon, and intentions are questioned.  But... it's important to your career.  The key is finding a balance.  I hope my employers continue to give me the grace to figure that balance out.  Thankfully, I work for great managers who often point out the good that I do to me, not the other way around.  It's a luxury (note to other managers in the world: your employees will love you if you come to them to tell them how awesome they are.  It's honoring, humbling, and will make your employees work even harder to be great).

Be visible: again, a potentially awkward one.  Here's my take on it: if I have free time in my schedule, I ask for more work.  This is how I've gotten to attempt and e-Bay Store, ran usability tests, got on the Open Access team, and am now working on a product proposal for something that I think will go through (amongst other various tasks).  If you have free time in your day, don't just chill and surf.  Enhance your skills and further your career.  Oh, and sit near the front at important meetings.

and the last one to point out on here (seriously, go read his posts... he's got other good points and speaks with much more authority than I do) is the one that will best help manage your career.

Ask for the promotion before the interview: Wild concept, eh?  Think about the reality of employment... there are budgets to consider, work flows to manage, and daily meetings to go through.  If you're a good employee, your manager isn't going to want to see you move on... they want you to keep working for them.  So... you might have to nudge a bit that you're ready to venture upward.  What's great about this is, almost always, the manager isn't going to have an open position to magically put you in.  Instead, you might get more responsibilty given, to try and test you out.  More responsibility for no increase in pay?  Yes!  That's OK.  That's how things work.  How else are you going to get that valuable experience?

Thinking about your career is a must.  You can't just expect to be a superstar employee that HR will magically want to promote; you have to work towards it.  One of my favorite past times right now is looking at random job postings.  Not because I want a new job, but because I'm trying to see what are qualifications and experience that I'll need for the next steps in my career.  If I can manage to bring in some of those qualifications into my current role... then I'll be better prepared for the next job.  The only thing worse than never getting promoted is getting promoted to a job you can't handle.