Are you working for a large company and wondering how you can advance your career and be more than, while not rocking the boat and coloring outside the lines of their performance review criteria? Do you feel limited to a career track that is dictated by your current position, with little or no opportunity to develop your skill set and move into other areas of the company?
How do you find that wiggle room within a seemingly inflexible system, so that you can strategically and collaboratively differentiate yourself through additional value-added output – and not piss off your colleagues in the process?
Large companies are systems. There’s an organic quality to systems. They are robust. In order to be robust, they have to have some built-in flexibility. There’s some wiggle room to work with.
The key is finding areas of flexibility that give you an opportunity to shine, and have others shine along with you. Let’s explore two opportunities that came out of a conversation I had this past week with one of my LinkedIn connections.
1. Start a weekly in-house discussion group. Define some topics you are interested in learning more about. Locate articles related to these topics. Determine whether there are individuals within your company who may have subject matter expertise on these topics. Invite them, and some of your colleagues, pick a day and meet for lunch.
- Then do something really radical. Ask your colleagues – or perhaps you know these folks anyway – if they know some colleagues in other departments who might be interested in your lunchtime discussion group. I’m talking about inviting colleagues from sales and marketing, from R&D, from Ops, from Finance.
- OK, so you may not have a cast of thousands come to lunch the first week. Just one other interested person will do. Over time, people start to spread the word about who they met and what they learned, and ideas they exchanged. Over time, your colleagues’ knowledge base will grow and it will be reflected in their output, perspective, and how they express themselves during meetings.
- Your lunchtime discussion group may become the event everyone looks forward to. You enhance your ability to work cross-functionally by inviting people from across the table to attend. You may find yourself being invited to meetings outside of your job description.
- The point is, everyone benefits by what you bring to the table each week. Management won’t fault an effort that improves everyone’s understanding of the marketplace, subject matter expertise, and output
2. Work with your local high school to create a hybrid sales-STEM program. Yes, you read me correctly. It’s really not an either-or option.
- Everyone is involved in revenue generation for their company, whether it says so in your job description or not. Since we all sit at the cross-roads of business development opportunities, consider what happens when you offer both perspectives to young people? It breaks down stereotypes of smarmy sales people and geeky engineers. No more Us versus Them mindset when, in fact, both a sales person and an engineer walk into a room and start talking about how both of you generate business for your company.
- Present this idea to a sales person or engineer that you know or admire. If you two can cross the abyss of discipline driven mindset, you will find there is an excited group of young people anxious to make their mark on the world. Think about the role you two can play in creating a bit of wiggle room within the educational system, in response to today’s global competitive marketplace?
These types of activities make you far more than everyone else in your pay grade or job position. These types of activities will open doors for you in terms of networking. These types of activities enhance those oh-so-powerful soft skills, which are needed for any technical professional seeking to move out of a purely technical functional within a corporate setting. These types of activities turn on the left side of the deftest of sales brains, which in turn allows you to grow your confidence calling on business segments which previously intimidated you.
You do have a lot more to offer. So don’t let your corporation’s performance criteria or discipline-driven status quo mindset limit your creativity and innovation. I should know. I’ve lived it. I wrote a book about it.
You can grow your ability to think cross-functionally and make a greater contribution to your performance, your colleagues, and your customers, by impacting the bottom line.
Don’t you think it’s time you – and your company – realized all that you are about?