"How do I know I can do this? How do I actually know? What if I can't? What then?"
Grace was suffering a high level of anxiety, facing a crucial interview and then exams in a few months. It's a real question that we all ask of ourselves in the working world, often in the early hours of the morning when our demons are feasting on our falsely bloated uncertainties. Fear of change, the future and failure is a very real thing. So how do we overcome it?
How do we actually achieve what others (friends, family, lecturers, tutors) relentlessly insist we CAN achieve? Well, there now follows probably the most unconventional careers advice you will ever read in your entire lives.
For a route through, find a jerk.
"Is that it?" Grace asked.
"Yep," I replied, facing a gaze that could wither concrete.
Arms began to fold.
The words said, "Go on then," but the voice said, "We all know who the jerk is here." The body language was as closed as a bank's doors when you're after money.
In fact, I was sure of my ground and I smiled.
In places you've worked, or institutions you've studied in, how many people can you remember that you were less than impressed by? For sure, there'll be a few.
"How the hell did they get that job?" you remember yourself asking. Even more,"How the hell do they manage to keep hold of it?" And possibly, "Which complete maniac gave it to them?"
Be honest. You thought they were a jerk. (Substitute any suitable word that you more commonly apply :) )
The thought that goes through your head is, "I could do a much better job than that."
And there's your answer. There's your answer to the whole of the rest of your career. But turn it around so that you can use it.
"If they can do that, why can't I? I know I could do a better job than that."
And you're right, you could. If you can think it, you can do it.
To mix metaphors, that's the first step under your belt. But now your hard work starts. You have to get that opportunity. That opportunity to show you could do better if you were in that situation. How do you get it? Well, if they can get it, you can get it.
Why? Because they're a jerk. Everyone says so, right?
So how did they get it? Well, they did x, y and z. Okay, so you can do that. However they got to where they are, you can do that. There is no law that says you can't. There is no barrier to stop you. The same steps will get you to the same place. QED. However, the real key to unlocking the route is to start asking yourself some questions.
"What is it about them that makes me think they're a jerk?"
"In what ways am I (and presumably others) certain that they are inadequate?"
"How is their behaviour … suboptimal?"
"What mistakes do I think they're making?"
"How could they do things better?"
Try to stay away from outright personality issues that are influenced by your feelings about them and concentrate instead on their behaviour, their actions and their results. Firstly, avoid making the same mistakes and, secondly, follow the (generic) positive actions that you feel they could and should be making.
If you perform better than them, you must do better, right? If you're not doing better yet, that's simply because you haven't completely understood their situation, so look again and look deeper.
There are different ways to use this technique.
- Look for a jerk doing the same job as you. It will really help you to understand how to do your own job considerably better. When it comes to looking for promotion or a new job, your chances will be much higher as a consequence of your higher understanding of the issues.
- Look for jerk doing the job you want to be doing next. Take the time now to work through the questions posed earlier. Really understand that role, what not to do and, more importantly what to do to be successful. When it comes to interview time, you'll be streets ahead of the competition.
- Look for a jerk doing the job you really want to be doing in the longer term. Really dig in, study and think deeply about them and the apparent mess you think they're making. Use those thoughts to focus your career development. Plan out what you need to learn in order to not make the same mistakes. Act to get the bits and pieces of experience that you will ultimately need to win that job, and the jobs on the way to it.
If you do all of that, when you get to your final job winning it will be easy and you will have eased your path to it very successfully.
Here's some advice gained through experience - don't treat jerks as though they're jerks. it's pointless and generates needless hostility and thereby wastes time. Smile at them. Make a friend of them. The closer you get, the more you'll see.
I'm not suggesting you stab them in the back, they're not in your way. On the contrary, they're kindly pointing the way out for you. Your job is simply to observe, analyse, translate and then act in a better way.
I truly wish I'd known all of this when I was starting out on my own career. So, don’t stay mired in relentlessly critical thoughts about others, turn it around and figure out how to use it to help move yourself forward. If they're like that, you can do better, can't you?
I'm telling you, you can - there're no limits.
Fancy the job of CEO, or the job of Prime Minister? You can either complain about the person currently in post, or you can think about how you could do better and then act on it. The power is yours - use it wisely!
It's 2016 - Let's Firewalk!
Jon Gregory, Editor
For more detail on this subject, read “Winning That Job: A kill or be-killed guide to job-search and interview preparation.” You can pick up it up as an e-book or paperback here on Amazon >>>
Keywords: career, job search, job hunt, interview, exams, promotion, social media, targeting, searching, jerk