January 13, 2008
Are You As Versatile As Running?
Today was my first day back in the city after two weeks working and playing at our house in the mountains. And a beautiful day it was — 46 and sunny! I went for a great run, reflecting on how incredibly versatile running is. Less than 48 hours before, I had also been running, but bundled up, in a 17 degree snowfall, wearing my new Icebugs (thanks for the tip, Brad), up and down the hills of a quiet country road at 6500 feet in Idaho. Today — sea level, flat, urban, sunny and crisp out, wearing shorts (I’ll let you guess which was easier). How versatile can a sport be?
Are you as versatile at work? Can you be that go-to person for your manager, the all-weather team member who gets called on to take on any kind of project as needed? I don’t care how specialized your job is or how big your company is. That’s the kind of employee you want to be, trust me.
But, you say, what about me? Don’t I get a say in things? Can’t I have my own career ambitions and interests and steer the kind of work that I do?
You can! You should! I tell people at Return Path that all the time. And the best part about is that while the two above statements may seem at odds with each other — be able to do anything (with a smile) and do what you want to do — they’re actually not. The very best employees who I’ve worked with or who have worked for me over the years do both and mix them together to their advantage.
Work your career path with your manager, your mentor, your HR leader, your CEO. Understand what’s possible long term at the company. Figure out what you’re good at and what interests you (read, among other things, Now, Discover Your Strengths to get there). Learn what it takes to earn a promotion to the next level. Get yourself generally in line to rise through the ranks the way YOU want to. Obviously, to get to that next level, you’ll need to work your butt off, harder than others around you, with better results and higher quality.
But you also have to be a utility infielder, to mix sports metaphors. If your company or your team needs you to do something a little different from what you’re doing today, the difference between doing it well with a smile on your face and doing it merely satisfactorily with a grimace could be the difference between that next promotion and not. And it’s really both those things — doing it well, and having a great attitude about it.
I love running, because I can do it at any place, at any time, as long as have my running shoes. Our best employees are similarly versatile, because they are self-directed and work hard and do things right, but also because they do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, even if it’s outside the scope of their day-to-day or not explicitly in the critical path of their next promotion.