In a down economy when things get tough, people get nervous. Some employees feel nervous about keeping their jobs. They get in the “hunker down” mode and do everything they can protect their job. Do you know anyone who behaves that way?
The people who are the most secure in their careers follow similar patterns of behavior. They understand competition exists. They recognize the steps they need to take to succeed. They manage their fears in the face of threats. They know life is a journey and look forward to every turn.
One of the keys to success is in understanding the value you bring to your organization and taking steps to increase it over time. The following five actions will help you increase your value and enhance your self-confidence:
- Improve skills and knowledge: Instead of hunkering down and running below the radar, take specific actions to improve your skills. Look for opportunities for training. If the company will not/cannot spring for it this year, look for learning opportunities online. Read books. Read blogs. Make an effort to learn new skills and practice them as much as you can in your current job. Remember the cogent words of Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
- Help others: One of the best antidotes to self-pity and fear is to help other people. When you make the effort to assist someone else to become better at what they do, you become better yourself. When you help others your confidence grows and you increase your value to those around you.
- Develop trust: People naturally want to surround themselves with people they trust. Developing trust takes time and consistent effort. Trust goes two ways: you need to behave in such a way that people will trust you will do what you say. And equally important, you need to trust others. Developing relationships of trust increases your value.
- Believe in yourself: As your skills increase, you gain more experience, you begin to understand your significance to your organization. Trials and difficult circumstances can diminish these feelings, but they should not. Believing in yourself, your skills, and your ability to succeed — without becoming arrogant — is a good thing. Never forget the people who have helped you increase your value along the way.
- Work yourself out of the job: This one may not make sense at face value. If you work yourself out of the current job, what will you do? The idea is to work effectively and close the loop on what you are doing. Think in terms of projects: each one has a beginning and an end. You plan what you are going to do, work at it and when it’s finished you move on to the next project. When your project is successful, it’s easier to land the next project. Jobs are the same way. Make your work so effective and make it run so well that anyone could step in and take over. As you do that you will automatically make yourself more valuable to your company, and they will have no choice but to promote you or find something more challenging for you to do.
The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you are in a unique position to create value. Your role lends itself to working with many people in different parts of the company and with customers and others external to the organization. Practicing the five actions listed above will increase your value to your company and accelerate your career growth. And when you work yourself out of the product management position, perhaps you’ll find yourself in an executive’s chair.
Disclosure: Many thanks to my good friend Steve Reiser for the initial ideas on this post.