No MBA? No Problem.
Did you get your MBA? Neither did I. Like a lot of folks I bet on the value of experience. The article “5 Work Experiences Worth More Than an MBA” by Geoffrey James continues his series of posts detailing the books, career moves and videos worth more than an MBA. The five items he lists are absolutely spot on when in comes to things you can only experience. Here’s a summary:
- Bringing a product to market – nothing teaches the value of collaboration better than the cat herding exercise of getting engineers, marketers, salespeople and executives to work together. I know teams in school do exercises like this but it’s completely different when everyone has their mortgages and professional reputations on the line.
- Surviving a layoff – as I’ve taught in my How To Be An Effective Manager workshop, politics is a part of modern management. Few things bring politics more front and center in the organization than a layoff.
- Enduring management fads – one of the things I’ve valued most about not having a MBA is the distance I’ve maintained from management fads. There was no one to grill me on them and test my knowledge (and acceptance) of them. As an employee and manager, I’ve been able to hold the latest idea up against the reality of the workplace and quickly accept or, most likely, dismiss it.
- Selling big ticket B2B – Before moving into management, I sold. Almost everything I’ve sold in my career has been B2B. Moving a sale through another company; identifying all the players who can help it or sink it; assisting your internal champion (the person in the target company who is on your side) navigate objections; and, securing support from your team to prioritize your sale is a lesson like no other.
- Working in customer support – Having worked in support during college and having led two support organizations, the author’s explanation of the value of this experience is a great summation: “Because of the way most companies treat customer support, a stint on the phone banks reveals exactly how stupid companies can be and how mean customers can get. Survive that and nothing else the business world throws at you will even make you blink.”
Aaron Hurst wrote, “Why You Should Fill Your Payroll with Purpose-Driven People” for Psychology Today. The article addresses why employers should adjust their hiring processes to identify people for who work is “inherently meaningful and rich in purpose”. People work for different reasons. Some do it to finance the other parts of their lives and others work for status and ego. People who are drawn to work as a way to contribute to society are the ones employers should target.
The author notes that these folks aim to integrate, not balance their work and personal life. They love what they do and love talking about it. They have friends at work and consider the organization a second family. They seek to learn and grow. These are the folks who will win the lottery and actually show up for work the next day. For them their work is both the means and the end.
I appreciate the article’s acknowledgement that these folks are not just social workers and teachers. They are accountants, salespeople, marketers, admins and physical plant technicians. After all, wanting to invest your time in something that serves a purpose is separate from the type of work that you might enjoy doing. The trick here is to help your employees understand how they fit into the larger purpose of the organization. They need to see how their efforts support the group’s success.
Believe in Your Work
Seth Godin’s post, “An alternative to believing in yourself” fits in nicely with the purpose driven article, from an employee perspective. He suggests that people who are struggling with believing in themselves should stop trying. Instead, they should “do work you can believe in”. It’s a simple approach to getting out of the trap of wishing you were doing something meaningful one day, knowing you’ll feel so much better about yourself.
Choose the work, regardless of how you feel right now, and then see what happens. I know. It’s another way of saying “just do it”. Isn’t that really the truth of it all though? Your life isn’t waiting to bring you what you want it to have. Your life is waiting on you to start pursuing what you want to have. Take one step and see what happens.
Then, take another step.