Archive for January, 2015

Work it Like You’re in a Contract Year

January 14, 2015

Imagine for a moment that you’re a professional sports athlete. You’ve been paying your dues via extra hours of practice to raise your game and waiting your turn for a chance to prove your value. You’ve put in the sweat equity and made the most of the opportunity for the past several years. Finally, your big payday is on the horizon. You’re in a contract year and at the end of the season, you’ll be a free agent. Multiple teams will be knocking down the door to your agent, bidding up the package to include performance kickers and a host of tantalizing benefits. As long as you have a solid year with impressive stats, your ship is about to come in.

So we’re not professional sports athletes, paid mammoth sums of money to play a game – millions if we win and millions if we lose. We don’t have an agent, looking to capitalize on our past performance with a max contract. Worse yet, we’re in the corporate world, where we’re deemed tenants at will. Despite our self-worth and proven value, predicated on years of accumulated tribal knowledge and accomplishments, we’re highly expendable – easily replaced, made redundant, or otherwise evaporated at a moment’s notice.

Granted, there are plenty of situations, activities and decisions in our working worlds that are well beyond our control. That promising early-stage start-up could fail to land the next round of funding. The post-acquisition environment for an organization may face massive consolidation and redundancies. The big brand, F500 company may have missed Wall Street’s expectations on quarterly earnings. Anything can happen at any time. And the pace of change is only getting faster. Your company’s picture keeps changing before it’s been fully drawn.

Yet, as working professionals, we are the possessors and caretakers of something that is a constant – our own individual brands. And our individual brand, like any brand, represents a promise; an assurance that the experience and resulting performance will meet or exceed expectations. To sustain and build upon the aptitude, attitude and performance our individual brand promises – now that is something we fully own and control.

The best of breed employees and top tier candidates understand this ethos. They embody pride, integrity, credibility, accountability, drive, and consistency – intangible attributes hiring executives consciously (or sometimes subconsciously) seek out in candidates. As I tell my 12-year-old daughter on a regular basis, you have to go to the trouble of doing the job anyway. So, you might as well do a really good job.

Many people just completed a year during which they worked hard to hit their goals. They climbed the mountain and reached the summit. And now with a new year, they’re back down at the base of the mountain, staring up at a new set of sky-high goals to attain. No, we’re not exorbitantly paid professional athletes, looking to hit it big after completing a successful contract year. Yet, there’s no reason to think this couldn’t be that contract year.

The next stellar career opportunity may be right around the corner. The best way to land that position is to be the athlete everyone is vying to hire. And there’s nothing preventing us from acting as though we’re in a contract year. Besides, in our world, every year is a contract year.


Action items:

  1. Don’t just do your job. Do it well. And while you’re at it, keep track of your stats – the goals you’ve achieved, the milestones you’ve surpassed, and the initiatives you’ve driven.
  1. The euphemism for a top-tier candidate is “athlete.” So, embody the mindset of one, starting with defining your personal brand and the value it brings to companies.
  1. How would you feel about being paid millions of dollars to win…or lose?