Mid-February marks a very special time in my calendar every year. It's a time of courtship and match-making; of romance, promises of devotion and the start of what could be a beautiful relationship.
Forget Valentine's Day; I speak of the deluge of CVs and requests for summer jobs at Just For Laughs that starts just as students write their winter mid-terms.
I could go into detail about what makes a great "hire me" pitch (back in 1999, I even put together a five-part series on the subject for CBC-TV), but more important these days is what happens to the candidate once he or she actually becomes an employee.
It used to be that the competition was fiercest amongst those trying to "get in." These days, the tide has shifted somewhat; the real challenge is staying in once you get there.
With that in mind, this week's learning is actually this week's teaching; it's what I learned in three-plus decades of navigating the workforce, both as an employee and an employer, and often the hard way. So without any further ado, here are three simple steps on "How To Stay In".
1) Be INteresting
There are thousands of ways to do this, very few of them bad. Stand out with your clothes, with your work ethic, with the way you decorate your office/cubicle/desk. Share your off-beat hobbies, taste in music or leftovers from last night's supper. Do what it takes to make your peers and your superiors notice you...and have them wonder what else this INrtriguing person has up his or her sleeve.
2) Be a Pain-IN-The-Ass
Counter-INtuitive, yes...but necessary in the process of sticking around. INteresting is a great starter, but this next step is where one has to upset the apple cart, break a few eggs, shatter a few egos, shift a few paradigms and risk it all. Great employees/team members have to take a make-or-break INitiative; it adds depth and cred to the shiny object that surfaced in step one. There are no great advances accomplished in perfect harmony. True, it could backfire, but without this leap of faith, you'll never get past Step 1, let alone approach Step 3.
3) Be INdispensible
A successful Pain-IN-The-Ass is tomorrow's leader; the future that bosses, subordinates, shareholders and corporate entities in general need to bank on. Once you cross this chasm, you become both INvaluable and INdespensible. While nobody is irreplaceable, the thought of moving forward without you is almost heresy. You don't have to be as overbearing as Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison, but a unique lynchpin-esque piece of the puzzle in your own right and style. You become a franchise player...and in the great circle of life, the one responsible for noticing the next INteresting Pain-IN-The-Ass.
The real beauty of this process is that it's not limited to the corporate world. It's equally as pertinent and powerful in the world of sports (think Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban), on TV shows (think Kevin O'Leary of Dragon's Den and Shark Tank) or in the arts (just look up Shepard Fairey, Picasso, Warhol, Damien Hirst and countless others).
What I love about these "Multi-Step" programs that infest today's media is how simple they look on paper (or screen, more likely). I also know the truth; getting there is tough, takes time and the journey is filled with so many ups and downs that you have a hard time understanding what you've done until the years allow you the proper vantage point for reflection.
But if you don't start looking IN to this now...you'll be looking out for yourself forever.