Leaving the Box

Leaving the BoxAs we finish out the first month of 2011, I would venture to say that many of us find ourselves in a position to change the way in which we are defined by others. In other words, we find ourselves in a position to leave our self-imposed box.

The viewpoint of many in the coming months may be different – some seeking employment, others trying to hold on to the position they have in the workplace, or rise through promotion and still others seeking to start or grow a business. However, a key part of the solution in exiting the box is the same.

If you are unemployed at this time, chances are the job you left is no longer in existence, in its entirety. I suspect that many positions that were eliminated in the past will be absorbed by others in the organization, or outsourced.

At the same time, we witness many tightly written job postings that enumerate criteria seeming to seek the very same people that they let go during the past several months.

Let’s face it. Organizations that look for the same old skill sets and the same old experiences and mindsets and the same old solutions will receive the same old results. I would contend that this is also a time for businesses to look outside the box as well.

Yet, the current employment market is heavily weighted towards the employer and it is certainly their right to be as cautious as possible.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching people bring experiences from different industries to handle opportunities successfully, in slightly different ways. I’ve also had the honor of having many of these people reporting directly to me.

Is there a “magic bullet” required for doing this successfully? Not really. Strong mentoring abilities, ability to instruct, respect for the individual and dedication to reaching success are the ingredients. It isn’t really complicated.

This blog isn’t about organizations though. It’s all about both you and I.

Just as there is not a “magic bullet” when it comes to leading others with slightly different backgrounds, there isn’t really a “magic bullet” for exiting the box imposed by ourselves, or by others.

I would venture to say it just takes some good old fashioned “block and tackle.”

As has always been the case, dedication to discipline and passion for lifelong learning have helped to pave the way to success.

With personal budgets cut and demands on time, you may say that the resources are not there for you to leave the box.

I disagree.

Never before has there been more fodder available for those with a dedication to lifelong learning. Along with traditional methods, such as books and coursework, we now have seminars, podcasts and Meetups at our disposal.

If opportunities are used wisely, a trip across town (or to an interview), may serve as valuable time in “automobile university” with a podcast or audio book. By exposing ourselves to more ideas, new career paths may come to mind and the thirst for knowledge may never be quenched!

So what about the person who is underemployed, working for an organization for less money than they would like to earn, or less responsibility than they would like to have?

Let’s face up to reality. A company will not hand out a raise simply because a person needs to earn more. Raises come about (most times) when the value of the employee is evident.

Are you waiting for your company to ask you about an upcoming continuing education opportunity, or hoping that they will pay for you to attend? Why wait? Why not take it upon yourself to get outside of your box and pursue the opportunity yourself?

Better yet, why not take it upon yourself to learn about a subject that is critical to your organization’s success and teach it to others.

Several years ago, I was in charge of the list prep and communications pertinent to the Kimberly-Clark Corp and Scott Paper Co. merger. At the time, my knowledge of Microsoft Access was extremely limited. So, I took it upon myself to go into the office on weekends to learn the program, since I didn’t own a personal computer at the time. Several months later, I was in charge of creating curriculum and teaching Microsoft Access courses to one of our valuable clients.

If you haven’t worked through the same type of scenario yourself, I am confident that you can do it too!

Self-enrichment may be your best and most direct route for achieving the raise or promotion that you’re looking for. If by chance it isn’t with your current employer, then at least you are positioning yourself better for the next one.

The time has never been better to become better at your craft, or to expand your knowledge about other areas of business.

If you are seeking to create or grow a business, the self imposed sentence of spending time in a box ensures that your competition always has the edge. It also ensures that you are not in a position to provide your clients with the type of service they have to expect – and deserve!

The purpose of this post isn’t to give the illusion that leaving the box is easy. Climbing out of the box is hard work and requires a tremendous amount of dedication. It also requires the support of members and colleagues.

I agree that personal branding is critically important, but I think we hinder ourselves when we focus solely on personal branding, to the detriment of personal development. Success is achieved with a healthy dose of both.

In the end, the process of leaving the box begins with each of us. The route is paved with books, podcasts, interactions and more time dedicated to growth.

We’re never done growing and the box only serves to stifle.

So in the years to come, why not look back on 2011 as the year that you successfully left the box?

While I don’t make it a practice to make yearly resolutions, my personal commitment in 2011 is to leave my box far behind in the rear view mirror.

Here’s to your journey in 2011, as well!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Todd Schnick says:

    good luck leaving the box behind!

    i too am making some big changes in 2011…and loving every damn minute of the adventure…

    1. Jeff Wolfe says:

      Todd,
      Best wishes to you as well, on your journey!

      As you know the journey to exit the box never ends, since the mark keeps moving if we are doing it right.

      Thankfully, like most endeavors, the journey itself is always more interesting and eventful than the final destination.
      Like you, I have enjoyed every minute too!

      I think you have done a nice job of providing some information for others, as they rest along the path of their journeys.

      Thanks for visiting!

      Jeff

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