The festive season doesn’t seem that joyful when you’re slogging away in a job you’re bored with or that doesn’t seem to be leading to the places you’d hoped for.
But that seemingly impenetrable brick wall trapping you in a dead end can be blown apart with three questions. The same three questions that helped me move from an uninspiring job to CEO of a successful multi-million dollar mining company, which I’ll explain further down.
It’s not some secret overnight success bullshit, but a simple logical reality – you can’t get what you want, if you don’t really know what your ultimate goal is.
It’s hard to know what the end game is when you’ve got so many competing demands every day. That’s where these three questions can get you on track, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Nothing worth doing ever is.
‘Where are you now?’ is the first question. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s the best way to assess your resources, skills and opportunities, which is imperative in order to answer the next two questions. You need to be able to clearly and succinctly enunciate this so you can demonstrate your value to others with the resources you need.
The next two questions require a little more work: ‘Where do you want to go’ and ‘What do you need to get there?’
It’s really important to have the right answers to these questions, but they’re not as simple for some people as they are for others. And when you do have the answers, it can be difficult to ask others to help you achieve them. That’s where the festive season comes in.
Research has shown people are more open to possibilities when they are relaxed and in a positive mood, which is good for working out your next move, but importantly, also ideal for asking your boss and others to help you.
If you know the answers to the three questions, make sure you have a plan for when you find yourself in a quiet chat with the boss, that well connected colleague or maybe just someone else with a good idea. The worst response you can get is a ‘sorry, can’t help you’, which is really just a helpful sign pointing you in a more accurate direction to the person who can help you.
If you don’t know the answers to those three questions, then it’s time to start talking to people – colleagues, family, friends and especially those who embody the kind of success or career that you’re after, people who inspire you and people who’ve found what makes them happy.
Ask others how they’re going with work, where they’re heading with it and what they’re doing to get there. Sometimes, these conversations can be a little daunting or even confronting, so it helps to say you’re also asking yourself these questions and finding it a challenge.
Network with everyone you have a connection with to find out what they’re doing. Any ideas there? Avoid negativity and seek out people who are excited about what they do and where they are going. If you can get them talking about that, it will inspire you.
Target, say, 12 people you admire and have always wanted to speak with. Call them up for a Christmas coffee. There’s nothing wrong with saying you’ve always wanted to speak with them about their passion, which you’ve come to admire.
You’d be amazed at how many experienced professionals are willing to talk to young people trying to find their career path. If they don’t want to chat, then you’ve either called a flogger or they’re not bright enough to recognise a networking opportunity, so aren’t worth your time anyway.
When you talk about what’s possible and share your dreams, you set in train multitudes of
possibilities and you never know what the world will send you back. It might provide you, as it did me, with the dream job.
In the early stages of my career, I asked my boss for a performance review. Whilst they are common place now, they certainly weren’t back then and particularly not in the mining industry.
I felt thirsty for more knowledge about how I could progress my career and feedback on how I could improve. Just asking for that review got me thinking about what I wanted and that led to the somewhat random decision that I wanted to work in the Amazon jungle and speak French.
As you can imagine, my boss thought it was hilarious. He tells me: “French Guiana is the only country where you can work in the Amazon jungle and learn French and our company doesn’t work there.”
For my part, I was just excited that it was possible to achieve both goals at the same time, which I hadn’t previously considered.
The short version of the story is that three years later, my boss was transferred to Brazil and later invited me to set up the company’s office in Cayenne, French Guiana, to take Brazilian geologists exploring for gold in the Amazon jungle using French operations teams. Like most successes in life, it was partly good luck and partly thanks to my commitment to finding out what I really wanted rather than just letting the currents sweep me to where others wanted me to be.
This experience was to have a profound impact on my life and gave me the audacity to dream up even bigger goals.
So while you’re enjoying winding down with your colleagues in the lead up to Christmas, try out these three questions and start thinking who you could call to make your dreams come true.
Go forth and conquer. If you haven’t pushed yourself too far, you haven’t pushed yourself enough.
Nick Poll is a professional mentor and is putting together an online magazine for aspiring CEOs and those who want to achieve their greatest potential. Contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org