June 24, 2005
As I attended an intracompany conference this week, I had an opportunity to speak with various people who have had radically different jobs throughout their careers. I don't believe it's any coincidence they were also some of the most dynamic and engaging people I've met, and that they had advanced well within the organization. Good business people have more than just technical competence, more than just managerial skills. They have a broader perspective gained from diverse experiences.
A few years ago, I attended an insightful keynote by Attorney Christine Edwards of Winston Strawn in Chicago. It was entitled, "Accountability at the Speed of Thought", which addressed the challenges and responsibilities that chief legal officers face today. I blogged it as she made a number of key points, which I summarized:
These points are even truer today, and indeed have risen to become imperatives. Successful organizations need diverse, well-rounded business professionals who understand the technical, business, process, and human issues. To get there, we need to continually reinvent ourselves. While our technical and management competencies are surely important, our overall business savvy, adaptability, and creativity are even more critical in the long run.
So each year, try to do several things you normally wouldn't do within your comfort zone. Get involved in a different kind of project, one that will bring you into contact with others you normally wouldn't see. Get involved in a committee that you otherwise wouldn't consider. Do some volunteer work in your community. Take a trip. Consider additional education, and it doesn't have be formal. Consider things like Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie, or LaMarsh. Change jobs. Heck, it can be something as simple as teaching yourself to juggle. Above all else, I've found it increasingly important to make time to reflect upon what makes you happy, including your life goals (not just career-related), and visualize how you might get there.
Granted, some of these are more easily accomplished than others. But consider that should you fail, you'll likely fail forward -- definitely not to be confused with "failing upward". I'm sure by now you've noticed I'm a firm believer of change or die.
There are many organizations who need your talents in a wide variety of capacities, and you just might discover something about yourself you didn't know. If you're already in a great situation, the experiences and perspective gained will only make you more valuable. In other words, what's the downside?