Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 4 P's of a Professional

Most of you have heard of the 4 P’s of Marketing, tools for you to use to take your product or service to market. They are guidelines, a framework to build off from and to use to produce results. So over the past couple of months, I have been contemplating about going back to Corporate America after quitting it to take on the startup route. As my company has changed (which you can see in my blog) and funds begin to dry up, I needed to continue to live even if it meant ending my startup path and starting a corporate job again.

As I looked over my resume, I began thinking about that corporate life and the choices, risks, and stress that I consumed. What I thought was a “normal” career path was just a different route that I forged myself (LinkedIn profile or see background below). While continuing to think about my company’s future, I began to analyze what type of people I wanted to bring on. Here are the set of tools, the framework, I think a motivated, driven professional should have in business. For those who are curious, here is my take, the 4 P's of a Professional:

Are you looking forward to Monday? While it was a faux pas, I left my first job out of college after 3-months because I simply did not enjoy what I did. As simple as it sounds, you cannot let the “comfort zone” outweigh the enjoyment with what you are doing now, tomorrow, and 5 years from now. Yes, there are days where you hate it, but that should not be every day. If you have the passion for what you do, the work shows it as you are willing to give your best in everything you do and to put your stamp of approval on all of your deliverables. With it, putting in the extra hours, skipping on some social gatherings, and taking little vacation becomes a “want to do” rather than a “have to do.” Passion creates drive and motivation for you to go into the unknown (like taking on new roles and projects not within your skill set) and turning lessons learned into growth opportunities. If you regret Mondays, then maybe that job is not what you really want?

Pain. Are you suffering in a good way? No pain, no gain is a fundamental lesson in the sports world that can be applied to a business world as well. There were some points during my career, where I did not enjoy a project or did not get along with a manager or team member. From being thrown into a basement (literally, I was sitting next to the water heater) of a client’s office doing audit work (not my skill set) to overstepping my role and taking responsibilities from my manager to better deliver to the client, I gained skills that built my career arsenal that I have used time after time. This is after I have told myself these skills would never be used again. Excuses have been the easy way out and the go to answer to problems or deliverables. They showcase your inability to produce and the effort you are willing to put into it. If  something needs to be done, pull out the stops and turn excuses into solutions. Hearing the “it is below my pay grade” phrase makes me cringe because it meant I would need to do more work to look for a different solution. Imagine the things you will learn (gain) just through the process of looking (pain) for a solution, often more than once.

Persistence. Are people coming to you? Following up is a simple task but many people fail to do it. What I have noticed at meetings or discussions in passing, people (including myself) are tasked with action items and “promises” to deliver it soon. However, these action items tend to not be delivered soon or have been forgotten. It’s no one's fault, everyone gets busy and items are prioritized. However, when action items hinder your delivery and you are waiting, you have to follow-up with those individuals. Yes, sometimes it sounds like nagging but you’ll be surprise how many “thanks for the reminder, here you go” that I have received. If you want/need something from someone, you have to take the initiative and follow-up with them, consistently, until you get it. That's why there are deadlines and why you should put a date against everything. This persistence gets you the answer you are looking for to deliver your work in a timely manner. Consistent execution and hard work will always show, so go get it, follow-up, and manage everyone's expectations. Most importantly, if you promised something to someone, get it done.

Are you growing your role? You could go get your MBA, get certifications, and/or additional training, which is all part of your professional development. However, that is not the type of progress I am talking about in this context. One time during a company re-org, I was placed into a team that I could not grow in. So I pushed myself out by working with another manager to establish a new team, taking responsibilities from others because we were able to deliver better. When you first start a job, you are given a set of roles and responsibilities that is required of you. On some occasions, you help others and go above the “call of duty” in your current role. That is great, however, progress is taking your role and responsibilities and expanding them and sometimes, taking them from other teams/individuals to ensure that the work is delivered to client/c-level execs/senior management in a timely fashion. You must have the confidence that you can do it and once you are able to deliver it better, they come to expect that from you, making it your “new” responsibilities.

Most likely, you answered yes to the 4 questions but that is just surface. When you dig deeper and understand what each tool entails to execute, does that yes stay a yes? If so, you are on your way to showcase that you are not just a professional, but an ambitious one. There are 2 types of driven professionals, those that focus on work (lack of personal life) so that they can move up the corporate ladder as fast while there are others (work/life balance) that focus on their delivering their day-to-day tasks exceedingly well. I’m sharing my views, based on my experience, with those professionals that are always hungry, the ones that believe that you cannot have a work/life balance. However, there is a price to pay. Giving up a social life and friends/family time, having a 60-80+ hours work week, and working on weekends, to name a few. Making decisions that are professional based and not personal based is what it comes down to at the end of the day.  Take a step back and look at where you are at now and those people you envy, notice what they are doing? These Ps are simple tools but it is about executing them and what I see in the framework of a driven, ambitious professional.

Appreciate any feedback that you may have on this post. Stay tuned as I put together "The 4 P's of an Entrepreneur” next.

Career Background Snapshot:

After 3-months at a large consulting firm, I quit my first job out of college. I moved to a boutique consulting firm where I took on some project manager roles, working with clients directly, managing 1-2 individuals, and creating and giving presentations to senior managers. Through that, I was promoted in only 2 years instead of the normal 3-years’ timeline. After the 4th year of my career, while doing project management work for a client, I took an offer for a position with them. Continuing with what I was doing for them as a consultant, I helped create a new team within the Office of the COO after refusing to join another team during their organization re-structure. During that time, I pushed for and received a promotion a year ahead of their normal “HR suggested” timeline. After 3 years, I decided to leave and focus on my startup. In short, the first 7 years of my career, I was promoted 2 times, more than doubled my salary in only 4 years, presented to and worked with senior managers/c-level execs for most of it, and only took about 3-months worth of vacation. All on top of volunteering for a professional business organization, managing and overseeing 30+ volunteers and 20 universities. Was it worth it?

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