9 Tips To Make Your Career Pay You
Recently, I celebrated my 48th anniversary in the printing industry. As I look down the road, I have no plans to stop. I’m always prepared for change and if I’ve learned anything I know surprises can come … but those are just details. I plan to stay active as long as I'm relevant.
These days I find myself working with printers, individual reps, students, and equipment companies. It’s an awesome gig. Through the eyes of my contacts, I see our industry from differing perspectives. I love it and I love learning.
It’s a privilege to share advice. I hope you’ll grant me a few minutes and take in the words below. These are tips I would share with anyone who wants to make the most of their career opportunity.
1) Do what you love doing and do it where you love doing it. The money will take care of itself. This one is obvious. There is no shortage of career advice along these lines either. If you like what you’re doing and where you’re doing it, you’re going to bring the best version of yourself to every detail you manage. You will excel. You’ll have fun and are sure to inspire those around you too. More responsibility will find its way to you and so will recognition. You’ll be successful.
2) Take a long look in the mirror and know who you are. What do you like? What do you dislike? A map (career or otherwise) is useless if you don’t know where you are. The same logic applies to knowing what you like/dislike.
I’ve seen many years wasted by coworkers that continued to invest time in activities they simply hated. The resulting misery harms attitudes and causes the unhappy employee to judge everything around them harshly. The truth is, they made the wrong choice and haven’t managed to see their role in their own failure or frustration.
Knowing who you are and taking regular looks in a mirror can keep you on the right path.
3) Make yourself valuable to the market and the company that pays you. Of course, this seems obvious but many simply go through the robotic process of managing the tasks of their assignment. They do “the what” without understanding “the why.” They blend in but they fail to make a real difference.
When you accept a job from an employer or an order from a client, you are involved in a financial relationship. Money is going to change hands in exchange for an activity. The activity is expected to deliver a result or outcome.
The outcome has to be worth the money invested. Employment is not a social outreach program. It’s a financial relationship. It is your responsibility to make yourself so valuable to the parties hiring you that they can’t accept the idea of not having you at their side.
4) Ask your leader to share his/her vision. Trust me. They have one. They’ll enjoy sharing it with you too. You’ll gain valuable insights and you’ll set yourself apart from every other employee.
Seeing daily tasks and objectives from your leader’s perspective changes the way you manage everything. You grasp why things matter and assignments don’t feel arbitrary. You understand the why behind the things you do. The goals will make sense and your role in making them happen becomes clear. You become part of something larger than yourself.
5) See your business or service from the market’s eyes. Everyone thinks they do this, but my experience is that very few do. It’s possibly the most valuable tip shared here today.
If you see things from the client’s perspective, it will influence every sales call you make and every piece of marketing collateral you produce. You’ll be focused on what’s valuable to those you’re trying to influence. You won’t waste time talking about machines or how many of something you can make per hour.
Instead, you’ll talk about things that matter to clients like selling more stuff or earning more donations or providing for more people. Financial transactions happen to address the client’s objectives. Get to know them and spend time looking at the world through their eyes.
6) Everything is in constant motion. Accept and expect constant change. The unhappiest people I know can’t embrace change. They’re convinced that what they learned up until a certain point in their lives is all they need to know. They waste time looking backward and poison their environment with a toxic longing for the good old days.
If you expect to excel in the working world … any world, you have to know that things will change. People will leave the place you work. New folks will arrive with their own ideas. Companies will be sold. Others will close. Technology will make some services obsolete while inventing demand for others … and new skills. Focusing on the why solutions exist over what they are at a specific moment will help you accept necessary change and make you more valuable to your employer and the marketplace.
7) Understand the money! Don’t believe for a moment that any organization can exist without money. Ministries and nonprofits of all kinds need cash. Every business or cause has a strategy for helping money find its way to their door.
If you want to be valuable to your cause or career, learn how the money works. Where does it come from? How does it get to you? Why does it come your way? Where does it go once it arrives? Where might there be leaks (poor execution)? These questions are critical to value.
The better you understand these moving parts and the more you demonstrate your sensitivity to how they work, the more valuable you’ll be. Leaders need people that understand these mechanics and can help them be more successful. Money is the lifeblood of every business or cause. You can’t contribute at the highest level until you understand and embrace this fact.
8) Avoid water cooler losers. It’s true that you’re judged by the company you keep. If you’re constantly involved in gossip, valuable facts will never be shared with you. If you can be counted on to complain, you won’t be included in activities that require upbeat and excited staff. Bosses don’t trust objectives with great possibilities to employees that constantly see problems.
Your reputation is a product of the things you say and do. It will be bigger than you whether good or bad. If you spend time with complainers, you’ll develop a reputation for being one as well.
The boss saves the best and most visible assignments for those that make life easier for him. If your name is always associated with discontent … your days are numbered.
9) Do your part to make people want your company or organization. Share the good you do every day. You’re a reflection of your employer everywhere you go. People form opinions on quality, environment, innovation, excitement etc., based on how they see you.
If you’re lucky enough to represent your firm to the public, you have a great opportunity and responsibility. The way you dress, manage promises, present yourself on social media, and act in public say who your company is. Companies are the summary of who they hire.
Do your part to give your company a great reputation. Excite those you interact with and make them want to be a part of what you do. It will pay dividends to you, personally, every single day.
If you work in any industry for 48 years you’re going to see lots of change. You’ll see things made possible by emerging technology that you would have bet against years before. You’ll acquire a taste for your own words and you’ll eat plenty. Eventually you’ll start more statements with the phrase, “I reserve the right to change my mind later.”
Leading in business isn’t for the timid. People are inconsistent. That makes rules inconsistent. If you’re sensitive, you’ll get hurt early and often. You’ll discover that losing is actually part of winning. It’s just wearing a disguise.
What is consistent is value. If what you do helps a company or client achieve their goals, you’ll be in demand. As long as the price for your inclusion isn’t more painful than the value you deliver, you’ll have a place to hang your hat and you’ll have a chance to do some genuine good.
I look forward to seeing you in the marketplace!
Bill Gillespie has been in the printing business for 48 years and has been in sales and marketing since 1978. He was formerly the COO of National Color Graphics, an internationally recognized commercial printer and EVP of Brown Industries, an international POP company. Bill has enjoyed business relationships with flagship brands including, but not limited to, Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, American Express, Nike, MGM, Home Depot, and Berkshire Hathaway. He is an expert in printing sales, having written more than $100,000,000 in personal business during his career. Currently, Bill consults with printing companies, equipment manufacturers, and software firms. He can be reached by email (email@example.com) or by phone (770-757-5464).