I had a nice conversation with a friend from London today that I haven’t spoken with in a while and we got onto the topic of careers. We started talking about my article on Personal Innovation and how in most professional occupations there are the stars and then there is everyone else.
We talked about how stars in certain professions might only be 5% better at something than their peers but get paid 5x to 50x more than the rest. There are certain professions like professional athletics where this is particularly true. But at the same time in many professions including lawyers, consultants, managers, speakers, even cooks and hair stylists, the stars are those who are best at marketing themselves. So if you really want to become a star, you have to hone the skills necessary to market yourself and/or your ideas.
If you read my article about The Commodity Marketplace for Employees you’ll get a lot more background on this topic. Today I want to focus on a good point that my friend brought up. He had consciously tried to build up an ‘aura’ (or a “reputation for greatness”) in his organization and had been somewhat successful in doing so. But after succeeding at building his ‘aura’, some coworkers who had previously been helpful in building it, suddenly stopped supporting him. Why did they do this? Well, they began to feel that his ‘aura’ had become stronger than their own, and a potential threat to their own career ambitions.
So, if you are really good at what you do, is building yourself into a star doomed to failure?
This is one of the hazards of focusing your personal innovation efforts within your organization. While it is important to have a reputation for greatness within your organization of a certain level, it is more important to focus on expanding your reputation for greatness outside the organization and here is why:
- To build a reputation for greatness within your organization you are dependent on your peers and managers saying flattering things about you and throwing their support behind your efforts, but at some point this support will likely decrease or cease
- The only exception is a company growing so fast that there is endless opportunity for all
- This is because people eventually become threatened and will not want to be seen as inferior
- It might help your manager if he/she can show their bosses that they are a great developer of talent and deserve to move up to the next level
- It does not add value to the organization
- It also increases the profile of your organization as being a thought leader
- Upper management will eventually recognize this thought leadership benefit
- Improved reputation
- Free advertising
- Free public relations
Let’s face it, becoming an internal star will probably only get you a 3% annual raise instead of a 2% annual raise, and possibly on the fast track for promotions (but only until you become a little too threatening to the wrong person). If you truly are a star, begin preparing yourself mentally for the possibility that you may have to leave your current employer to be compensated appropriately, continue to execute brilliantly and start polishing your star.
If you do a good job building up your self-marketing skills and show that you do have something unique and valuable to say, then you will become of greater value to another organization than to your current one, and to a sufficient level where the other organization is willing to campaign to acquire you.
So, the following questions remain:
- Are you really a star?
- Are you committed to the hard work and learning necessary to shine your star?
- Are you ready to leave your current employer when the time is right for a new opportunity or to create your own?
Well, are you?
Braden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.