Sunday, February 14, 2016

Being Fearless

In my most recent job performance review, one of the observations from the colleagues who provided feedback was that I seem fearless. I'm not really. There are plenty of things which scare me, but stuff at work isn't what really scares me. Stuff at work isn't going to get me or other people killed, there are clear guidelines on how to avoid the things that would get me into legal jams, and for other things it is understood that there will be a learning curve where some things will go well and some will not. There are also people around me of whom I can ask questions and advice when I get stuck. So I have a fairly supportive environment in which I can learn and develop new skills which I can use later. This takes a lot of the stress and scariness out of the equation.

My mentor mentioned to me that recently there has been some difficulty in finding people willing to take "stretch" assignments for skill and career development purposes. These stretch assignments include short-term and long-term placement in other organizations to gain new skills and strategic insights into the new organization, which are then taken back to the original organization.  These skills typically result in the returning staff member being given a higher level of responsibility than they had initially, making these career development assignments. The home organization is making an investment in sending us out to other organizations and is willing to take the risk that we might not come back. Presumably the home organization thinks that the detailee has a reasonable probability of success in the assignment and that, within a reasonable amount of time, the home organization will benefit from their experience.

I can think of any of a number of personal reasons to avoid a "stretch" assignment (either within the existing organization or through being detailed to anohter organization). I can't think of any professional reasons to do so. Even if the assignment doesn't completely align with one's professional goals, it is likely to result in a tremendous amount of learning, even if what you learn is that you do not like a particular line of work. Learning you don't want or don't like something is NOT failure.  It boggles my mind that people would turn down these opportunities. Why would you NOT choose to pursue growth opportunities?  It sounds as though the candidates for these jobs have been "scared" to do so. I assume that the individuals choosing me for a given task have at least moderate confidence that I can be successful. This makes it much easier to say yes.  If people who have the experience, knowledge and position to make an intelligent evaluation (and potentially have soemthing to lose if I fail) have determined that an assignment is a potential good opportunity for me, I'm willing to give it a shot.

This approach has worked very well for me so far.  When I have struggled to figure out a new job, I make a commitment to studying hard and learning the basics of the position and reinforcing my abilities. Identifying the weak spots and seeking to strengthen those has always paid off. This means spending quite a bit of time into reading and professional development. I may not end up watching as much TV, shopping, or socializing as much as my peers, but it seems to be paying off with career growth and financial security. I am positive that I wouldn't have doubled my salary three times if I'd sat around waiting for great things to happen to me. Opportunities favor those who are prepared, largely I think because those who are prepared are able to recognize the opportunities and then seize them. And the more you learn, the more confidence you have in your abilities to take advantage of those opportunities.


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