Recently an accomplished designer wrote to me for advice about how to move his career forward with a better-suited position. He had lots of questions about about how to position himself, what to do next, etcetera. He assessed his strengths and weaknesses. Mostly, though, he focused on problems – perceived problems – he saw with his background: out-of-date skills, missteps and mismatches.
I didn’t directly address these. To do so, I felt was to help him remain hung up on anxiety about his experience – his history. These are things I could not change. Most importantly, past problems are not a starting point for successful future solutions.
This was my advice:
Stand up now.
Write back your answer on this:
Exercise: We’ve just met – at a party. tell me what your job is. You have about ten seconds. (Its a party, after that the other guy will take the wheel and you’ll have to make another opening – okay, but not for this exercise). Go!
The Set-up: You just got a job you were psych’d about. Its in a corporation with 1000s of people. Their business offers products and servicies. You’re in some department or team or group (whatever – a fixed subgroup)
The Scene: we’d just met at a party of design and business people. I know nothing about you already. whatever you tell me will form my entire first impression.
The point: When you’re done telling me, I’ll think, “this guy is a ___. He does ___.”
Your move: tell me what your job is and what you part of the business’ work you do about what you are going towards. You have a few sentences, say three, before you’ll say: “and what’s your line of work?”, and maybe make chit-chat. You have no professional agenda at this party, just chatting and having a cocktail.
- The other guy will “get” what you say. Understand the terms, get your meaning, et.
- No matter what you say, the other guy will think its great, fine, just accept that that’s a job people have and you do it.
- You may not spend your words on past experience.
- You have to say the business purpose of your work, not the desk activities, or your step in your group’s flow.
- You have to start with a title or description.
- You can read all this explanatory crap ONCE. Then you just have to run through the exercise again and again (about 30 times) until its no biggie.
- You have to do this exercise while standing up.
- The exercise is standing there talking to the imaginary guy. The writing back to me part is just your report to me.
Remember: This is a job you know you’ll like. You’ve just been there a week. There are no problems there. There is no ambiguity at work. You come in, work with your colleagues, go home, etc.