Is Academic Thinking Blocking Your Brand?

fairness sticks: tongue depressors as math engagement tool
Image by WoodleyWonderworks via Flickr

In grade school the teacher tells you how many words should be in the essay.

In college they give you a syllabus for the class listing showing required and recommended reading. Tons.

In grad school you do the master’s thesis or dissertation. The more academic references the better it looks.

The real world doesn’t operate by word count, unless you are a writer being paid by the word.

You may disagree vehemently because you have been trained to think in terms of process not progress. This is especially true if you work for an organization – particularly in government - rather than as an entrepreneur.

On the job you are normally:

· Paid by the hour instead of the output (the approving “Go home already…you work too hard.”)

· Rewarded for volume of work (e.g. number of pageviews of your article) rather than results (conversion from awareness to sales and then continuing business)

· Encouraged to conform to cultural rules rather than charge ahead with box-busting innovation (“I wouldn’t say that at the meeting…you know how it goes around here.”)

Despite the above if you want to advance your career and your brand it pays to think like a business owner. Not like someone who is paid an hourly wage. Owners are invested in the organization and they look for only one thing – results.

You must look at your work as if you owned it, even if at the moment you do not.

To an owner, how much you worked – a lot or a little – to achieve the result doesn’t matter at all.

Meaning: If your idea saves them a million dollars, the fact that you wrote it on a napkin over coffee doesn’t make it any less valuable.

How do you know if you are shooting yourself in the foot, holding back your progress by thinking in an excessively process-driven way?

· You have trouble understanding how your work adds financial value to the organization, instead telling yourself “they just want me around.”

· You wait for someone to tell you what to do instead of proactively looking for ways to solve problems.

· When asked to describe your work, you have trouble coming up with exactly what it is that you do…because at the end of the day you are filling time.

· You don’t read the published strategies of your organization nor are you aware of the conversations inside and outside it that may affect your future.

· You aren’t engaged in any work-related reading, training or networking.

If you want to attain and retain the value you offer as an employee, think like an owner. Start asking difficult questions about yourself and and the work you do.

If you don’t like the answers, then get busy. It is true when they say: “You are the CEO of your own career.”

Good luck!