Patrick surprised me by getting a site feature implemented within 36 hours of its suggestion (context here).
I want to test out the new feature where only Certified Users can respond, so I took a moment to think of a good question.
What is the best advice you ever got on your career, and what was your relationship with the person who shared it with you?
I can think of a great memory.
In my second internship (elite, white-shoe investment bank) I was formally paired with a Vice President in the group at the beginning of the summer through a 'speed dating' format event. The whole intern class sat in chairs for an hour and got to meet six employees who volunteered to be a mentor who rotated for ten minutes each.
He and I clicked immediately from the start. He was the second person to sit across from me and we ended up ignoring the rotation rules and goofed off for the following four slots. We just hit it off that well.
I did well that summer, but as we hit the ninth week I put out informal feelers toward some of the people I'd done work with. My summer had been a high volume of short-duration projects, nothing substantive I could sink my teeth into and really prove myself on, so I felt that my return decision was going to boil down to fit: how well people perceived me.
From some of my posts it's probably easy to ascertain that I didn't come from a privileged background. In hindsight, I can identify that that made me hyper-sensitive to how well I integrated. If you feel like a foreigner, you're naturally going to be more on your toes.
My worst fears were concerned when half a dozen of the Vice Presidents and Directors I spoke with looked up from their desks and spoke lackadaisically about their enthusiasm for my prospects in that group. I was gutted. I had genuinely worked hard, produced error-free product, and truly wanted it more than any other kid there.
I took the afternoon to collect my thoughts, then hit up my mentor. He huddled with me conspiratorially, listened for 90 seconds, and gave me one of the best gems I've ever received.
"This is really simple. You don't have a content problem, man. You have a marketing problem."
That was it. The work product wasn't the question; I had that cold. Regardless of how well I thought I'd shown people what I was about, I clearly hadn't shown what they needed to see. Life hack: people are looking for things -- you can win by demonstrating you're that thing.
It doesn't matter the arena: interviewing, working, dating, sales, it's all the same. You can get farther by showing how you match the heuristic someone's relying on, even if they have no idea what that heuristic is (or what a heuristic is).
We've all heard this a dozen different ways. "Perception is reality" or some other trite Instagram-ready byline. As a young adult though, I hadn't ever been in a professional setting where something I really cared about was on the line and people's perception mattered more than the hard facts.
With my friend's help, I went on a four-day charm offensive. We identified all the people I'd spoken to who weren't strong supporters, all the people I hadn't spoken to but felt might be in that same camp, and then (critically) anyone who we knew was an ally.
Then we shortlisted the ones he knew actually mattered come decision time, and then I went to work. I got one-on-ones with all of them (no more than two a day, and strategically calendared based on where they sat on the floor so it didn't look like I was just headhunting to curry favor before the shot clock expired).
I opened up with sincerity to explain a bit more about my background, where I was from, how I developed the interest in the job, what exactly I learned over the summer (about myself, not about the job), and how I looked forward to putting that to use if I returned.
I got the offer.
More importantly, I have my friend's short words of wisdom mentally tattooed at the front of my mind. In everything I've done since, I painstakingly invest mental energy in evaluating how the people I'm interacting with will perceive anything I do or say. I map this out in a turns-based way, building successive conditionalities where I am able to place probabilities on how each incremental step contributes toward my desired outcome.
This, in turn, has helped me move logarithmically faster through my career.
I'd love to hear stories from other working professionals, especially @CompBanker (that'll probably take awhile ... ), @Layne Staley, @TippyTop11, @GridironCEO, @takenotes08 (I may still owe you a PM, going back to check on that now), @Frank Slaughtery, @Going Concern, @SSits, @Dingdong08, @BlackHat, @BTbanker (get Certified, man), @ArcherVice, @GoodBread, @shorttheworld, @IlliniProgrammer, @In The Flesh, @rufiolove, @Frieds ... and anyone else who I apologize for forgetting.
@freeminimalist.ru Patrick, thanks for a fast turnaround getting the new site feature implemented. I'd love to hear from you too.