You can become competent – even very good – at something if you’re diligent about practicing. Remember Jack Benny’s old joke about the tourist, lost in NYC, asking: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” And the somewhat acerbic New Yorker answers: “Practice!”
In today’s job market, you can practice resumé writing, branding, self-marketing, networking and interview skills to the cows come home and you’ll never land the job. (Could that be because you’re waiting for the cows to come home in NYC where there are no farms for them to come home to?)
Seriously, you have to focus on hitting a home run to secure the job you want. Yes, you have to practice. You must be extremely good – if not an expert – at what you do. But once your credentials are solid, you must be prepared to take a risk, to step out of the batting box and take a swing.
The irony is that, while we’re suggesting you take risks, it’s a luxury today’s employers cannot afford to take themselves (as in a mediocre candidate) in this economy. They have problems that need to be solved now, and too many of the tried and true “expert” tactics and strategies have failed.
Innovation is the big word today. Employers are looking for candidates with new solutions. The ideal candidate understands their challenge, has innovative strategies to address that challenge, has the know-how to implement the strategies, solve the problem, measure results and communicate lessons learned.
You need to demonstrate that you are that “Innovator Par Excellence!” Research – or dare we say – ask what that employer’s priorities are. Don’t leave it to him or her to imagine what you might do. Rather, take one of their most urgent priorities and create a mini-plan to tackle the challenge: create a solution-based strategy to accomplish the task, etc, including measuring impact.
Take risks: not off-the-cuff risks but well reasoned risks that you passionately believe in. Never underestimate the power of passion as your ultimate productivity tool. Don’t let fear of failure circumscribe your creative thinking. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t get the job – but do you really want to work with someone who does not see the value in your ideas? The best thing that could happen is that you get the job and – even better – with mini-plan in hand, you’ve already begun to do the job.
Moreover, you will learn in the process. Look at Thomas Alva Edison. Beth Kanter in her blog, “How Nonprofit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change,” mentioned Edison and his belief in the importance of experiments and not to frame them as success or failure but as learning. “Edison,” Kanter says, “held 1,093 patents for different inventions. Many of them, like the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, were brilliant creations that have a huge influence on our everyday life. However, not everything he created was a success; he also had many failures. He also did not find the successful inventions with his first experiment. In his question to create the storage battery, he conducted 10,000 experiments before arriving at a method that worked.”
And she quotes Edison, “Results! I have gotten a lot of results. I know what doesn’t work and won’t have to be tried again.”
So, our advice is to get out of the batting cage and start swinging. You’ll get many strikes and hit more than a few foul balls but, eventually, you will connect with a zinger and knock that ball out of the park. That’s what’s called a home run!