What would you ask if you could ask one questions on career management?

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One of the things that I really love to do is present to groups. Whether it is one person or a thousand, I can present.

But you know what the most interesting thing is about presenting?

You learn just as much from the audience as the audience learns from you when you have interaction with them.

On October 6th, I had the privilege of presenting “Technology for Writers” at Write on The Sound here in the Seattle area. It was a great crowd of 45 people wanting to learn how technology can help market their work (read: create a personal brand) to their audience.

And while there were great questions during the presentation, there were a few in e-mail after as well. I answered them, of course, but left them there.

Not Jason Alba. Given 20-minutes to present to an MBA class on online and social networking — an impossible amount of time to present something like that — Jason too had e-mails afterwards.

His e-mail from Chris McConnehey asks the question every student of every teacher wishes were asked:

The other question I really wanted to ask which I figured was totally inappropriate for class, was this: If you had been given a totally open forum what would you have discussed?

No restrictions to online networking topics, no time limit, no real restrictions. The only direction you would have been give is that you should share some of the things that you thought we be of most value to people in our situation, how would your presentation have differed?

Oh, my.

From a speaker’s perspective, this is really hard because you are focusing the content of the presentation so that you are hitting everyone in the room — and there is a very diverse experience set that needs to be addressed, from explaining basic concepts on something to giving the experts in the room something to take with them back home.

The concept of “technology for writers” and how technology can help market their work isn’t really on topic for a blog focused on career management, personal branding, and what it takes to be a Cubicle Warrior. But if this blog were focused in that direction, you’d answer the question on your blog, right?

But Jason presented on social networking (especially LinkedIn) and took Chris’s question and turned it into a seven-point blog article that nails you right between the eyes. It also applies for all the readers of this blog.

Do you want to have seven steps to nirvana in networking your life? Go read Jason’s article “Chris McConnehey’s Final, Biiiiiiiig Question (What would I really have said?).”

And since I haven’t presented on Career Management for Cubicle Warriors, if you could ask one question you always wanted to ask on career management, personal branding, or becoming a Cubicle Warrior, what would that question be?

  • Scot Herrick says:

    This is a great question, Paul, with a couple of different implied questions. Let me give you my perspective on each:

    Maintain a small, but important gap in my loyalties between myself and my company.

    I agree completely. There are two reasons why I would agree. First, if you do not maintain your own integrity with yourself, then you lose who you are. The loyalty to yourself is an important value, and not just with working.

    Second, companies — even some managers — will do what is necessary to meet goals of the company and that includes laying you off in a heartbeat or outsourcing your position to save marginal dollars. Also to get that check mark against the budget and goals. Your skills don’t matter. Your work doesn’t matter. Your loyalty to the company doesn’t matter.

    In the end, there is no loyalty of a company to an individual, there is only loyalty between people. And a manager, though fiercely loyal to you and your work, will be overridden by the mandate to cut or outsource.

    The “small gap” should be carefully guarded to give you the ability to step back a bit and evaluate the situation you find yourself in so that you can know whether it is OK to stay or time to leave.

    The “small gap” is a critically important understanding to have and to hold.

    Do I think this mental model will keep me from being rewarded at work?

    The short answer is: not if you actually contribute to the work.

    The danger in having the awareness of no loyalty to a person from a corporation also carries with it the danger of an employee backing away from actually doing the work. “They don’t really care,” while not exactly accurate, leads to “so I won’t care either.”

    That attitude is death by annual review.

    For what it is worth, the way Personal Branding fits into Career Management is that the person builds a personal brand and the loyalty is TO THE WORK, not to a company.

    The passion a person carries is not to a company: it is the work the person does for the company.

    For example, if statistical analysis is the person’s passion, it makes little (passion) difference if the work is done for Citibank or Citidump. Yes, there are issues with pay and management and benefits, but the underlying issue is the passion for the statistical analysis work. The rest is logistics.

    Consequently, if you focus on the work — and not loyalty to the company — you will always contribute in a meaningful way to the people you are working with and help meet corporate goals.

    While people may argue that focusing on your work and your passion is selfish, the truth of the matter is that your passion will provide others a valuable skill that they cannot get from just anyone — only you with your personal brand that delivers. That helps everyone.

    In the end, it is a change in perspective. It is not company loyalty, but loyalty to the work that comes from your passion. Everything else is logistics.

    I would suggest that by focusing on the work (something that I have difficulty with at times as well) will provide the contribution you seek.

    And, as an aside, if a company’s management team is judging you based upon your loyalty to the company, it’s time to move on. That’s all about loyalty and not about the work or doing what’s right. Enron comes to mind.

  • Paul Brandhagen says:

    If I could ask one question I always wanted to ask on career management, personal branding, or becoming a Cubicle Warrior, what would that question be?

    I feel like I have to maintain a small but important gap in my loyalties between myself and my company. I want to be a team player, etc. and I believe I do contribute value to the organization… but at the end of the day if my boss asks me to drink the kool aid, I will find a new boss. This is the first time I’ve openly admitted that… do you think that mental model will keep me from contributing and being rewarded at work, or am I right to be skeptical and wary of loving the company a little too much?

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