So how’s that going?
Do you remember “The Silent Majority”? While the phrase has been around for a very long time, it was popularized by Richard Nixon in 1969 in a speech, and also referred to by journalist Theodore White as the “mute masses.” In a different context, this phrase also represents the voices you hear (or don’t…) on social media. Research shows that almost 90% of what you hear there comes from less than 30% of the most vocal users….and they are different from the the quieter folks that make up the bulk of your online audience.
My first career out of high school was as a musician in the U.S. Navy music program. My primary instrument was euphonium (also called a baritone horn) and there was a requirement to learn to play the trombone so I could be a part of other kinds of ensembles. Versatility is a foundational trait for musicians, and the Navy is no different. I was also a self-taught keyboard player and had written some jazz tunes and done a bit of arranging. After completing the initial bouts of training, I was sent to my first band in Hawaii (that was a real heart-breaker!).
One of the regular functions of any Navy band is to provide a wide range of kinds of music in various sized ensembles to address the dynamic needs of those who request the band. This meant solo piano, brass quintet, jazz combos of varying sizes, contemporary music, concert band, ceremonial band, marching band….just about any kind of music you could come up with using a group of about 30 multi-talented musicians.
This was my first real experience with a recursive rule. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I was supposed to get experience playing in a small jazz group without being able to work with a small jazz group. I wasn’t the only person in the band that ran into this, of course. All of the young, new folks who wanted to do this were in the same predicament.
Before I tell you what our solution was, I want to cast this problem into another context.
The nature of careers, society and industry in our economy now is such that the majority of us run into the same ‘policy’ everywhere.
- Unemployed – Cast away from your former role, whether by choice or not, chances are you re looking for work in a different company than the one you left. You have to convince the hiring teams that you are well able to do what they wish you to do. However, many of these companies hesitate because they feel that somehow you need more experience doing EXACTLY the job they are hiring for, despite the illogical reasoning (and the likelihood that the job description they are hiring for isn’t REALLY, ENTIRELY what you’ll end up doing, anyway…).
- Entrepreneur – You took the leap and started your own business, whether as a solopreneur or with a small team. You’re working through all the right steps in setting things up, marketing, networking, business planning, researching your product, financials….everything is solid and on track. You’ve even gotten a few customers, but testimonials are few (this is a NEW business, after all!). In discussing a proposal with a new potential client, she would like you to demonstrate the actual and, preferably, exact value of your proposed product or engagement for her business before she’ll consider the proposal. Well, you and your team are more than able to deliver all the items that are part of the proposal, and more. But, since your business hasn’t actually delivered a package like this before, you don’t have hard data or a testimonial or five on THIS PARTICULAR PACKAGE….
- Growing your Career in a Company – You’ve worked for the company for some time, holding a number of different roles. You’ve been successful, carrying the experience you’ve gained from one group to another, and the company has benefited as well. Now it’s time to look at a new role, maybe even something a little different from what you’ve been doing so far. You’ve spent a lot of time studying the role, shadowing some top performers you’ve met, and even gotten some outside education to prepare yourself. Nonetheless, you’ve never actually PERFORMED in this role before. Much like the examples above, the hiring team seems hesitant to move you into this role, since you’ve never done it before….
Illustration by John Tenniel of the Red Queen lecturing Alice for Lewis Carroll’s “Through The Looking Glass” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have been in a number of conversations lately where my colleagues and friends are grappling with staying on top of their game, so to speak, both online and in the office. Not only are we coping with the well-known information overload, but we have the desire to improve, deepen and expand our skills, knowledge and expertise. Each of us is evolving a methodology to accomplish this, but it changes a lot and, with so much change, it can be difficult to feel like you’re really progressing. It feels so much like the Red Queen‘s comment in Lewis Carroll‘s Through The Looking-Glass : “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”