"Always be ready. So that you don't have to get ready." Best Facebook advice I've ever witnessed from a good friend who's now a 3-time Grammy winning drummer.
The context was around his secrets to success and why he always seemed to score the sweetest gigs playing drums for legendary performers. One of his biggest frustrations was other drummers who complained incessantly (read: hated on him) about never seeming to get the sweet gigs. He succinctly pointed out that many of the same whiners actually got the call but weren't ready to head to the airport at moment's notice when an artist called. They would him-and-haw about the gig next Saturday they're scheduled for or start asking questions about the flight, the pay, rehearsal schedules, number of gigs promised, blah blah blah. Ain't nobody (read: superstar) got time for that! Get your ass on the plane already or f*ck off!
My friend is one of the most meticulously prepared men I know. He's smart. He's focused. He's talented AF. And he's NEVER late...and always ready. When a call comes he already has a duplicate drum kit packed and only needs to pull a couple things from his current gig kit, pack his all-black, stage outfits and toiletries, and head right to the airport...working out the details on the way. As such, he scores the sweetest gigs ever and has cemented a reputation of "the guy to call first" if you're ever in a pinch and need a beast on the drums who'll be there ASAP. And, he can name is own price because he's literally saving the day.
We're in a new year and I'm already seeing a bunch of the same lackluster attitudes, lack of preparation, whining, and campaigning for the pre-show Oscar for "Best Victim" from the past several years. And I'm not here for it. It's tired. It's lazy. And I'm honored to be the one to call it out.
It's imperative to understand that if you are a worker you are always vulnerable to be axed. Unless you own the company you have little-to-no leverage to keep yourself in position. Jam that in there and let it sink in. Loyalty in business is, essentially, dead. Gone are the days when companies kept lifetime employees around. Employees are considered a liability after a certain number of years in position because the 2.0ers usually come in, outperform the 1.0ers, and push a company to new heights with new energy, ideas, and fearlessness. 1.0ers whom, to their credit, helped build the company from its inception often find themselves feeling less valued and vulnerable and become salty at the fact that they have to perform at a new level and intensity as the newbies 2.0ers coming through the door. Worse is when a 2.0er becomes a 1.0er's boss. Am I wrong?
As I'm about to release my first book that tackles this and similar issues about business these days I'm going to lob a few atom bombs over the shrubury and onto the LinkedIn community to, hopefully, Cher-slap many of you to "snap out of it" and begin to adjust your mindset in a way that empowers you to understand and play the game well instead of constantly being played. Grab your LaCroix and let's get started.
Unless You Own the Company, You're Vulnerable
Over and over I get emails, texts and DMs from friends, alums, ex-colleagues suddenly ousted and looking for jobs after "giving blood to that company for years." Now they're in a mad scramble to update their resumes, reach out for recommendations, hastily searching for emails or phone numbers from the priceless contact list that stayed on the company laptop and email server they just lost access to, etc. As much as I'd love to offer all of the empathy in the world, admittedly, I'm fresh out.
Business is business. It is predicated on creating wealth, increasing brand visibility, and cementing power and ubiquity. Employees are a conduit for doing just that. They are hired to fulfill a very specific role in the game and are held accountable to a specific set of expectations. Once that role and the person in it lose value in a company's mission to create wealth/visibility/power/ubiquity they're gone. It's not personal. It's business. The sooner we accept this fact as workers the sooner we'll be less compelled to allow our emotions and loyalty delude us into believing that we're invincible simply because we're awesome people. Awesome still gets laid off or fired. Believe me, I know.
Expect that Your Quarter will Run Out
Anytime I've joined a company I've expected that my shine would eventually dull or the executive that I loved and supported would eventually become the most annoying person on the planet to me or would disappoint me to the point of wanting to burn the building down. I've accepted, many years ago, that every relationship has a shelf life. Especially in business. It's a sign of the times we're living in. What may be hot in January 2019 may be tired AF in November 2021. In fact, it's likely.
I always make sure that everything is up-to-date. My skills. My resume. My contacts. My network. That way, I know that if/when the hammer drops either by a company's doing or mine, I'm good. A few phone calls, a couple of emails, maybe a coffee/drink or two and I'm likely already negotiating my next offer. I do not entrust my livelihood, happiness or well being to anyone other than family. To me, that's foolish and recipe for a lot of disappointment and potential financial ruin. Get your perspective in order. While your company appreciates your service <---- they are not responsible for your life and livelihood. Sure, you collect a check from the work you provide them and, yes, they will promote you and reward you for the increased value you provide them in achieving their mission, but that's no guarantee and certainly not something you should bank on when you sign your handsome offer and cash your heavily taxed sign on bonus. Oh wait. You didn't get one of those. *sips tea, shadily*
Stay Three Years Max at any Company with a Few Exceptions
You are doing yourself a massive financial disservice by staying at a company longer than 3 years. I can hear a choir of CEOs right now screaming, "OMG...SHUT UP!!!" But I stand by every syllable and I dare one of them to fight me on this. It's not a sound financial move to stay at a company longer than three years in today's business climate and with the strength of today's market. Think about it. Companies are consistently giving annual bonuses of 2 - 5% to most workers and exponentially more to senior leaders in the organization. The inequity is palpable. Yet we allow ourselves to be played for years and wonder why the market has passed us by when we leave a company after numerous years of service expecting the next employer to hire us based on (dusty) experience and loyalty. Keep up, kids. Not the way it works these days.
Here. Let's do some math based on 8 years of a typical Executive Assistant salary/raise scenario:
- Starting salary: $75,000
- Year 1: 3% raise = $2,250 New salary: $77,250
- Year 2: 3% raise = $2,318 New salary: $79,568
- Year 3: 3% raise = $2,387 New salary: $81,955
- Year 4: 3% raise = $2,459 New salary: $84,414
- Year 5: 3% raise = $2,532 New salary: $86,946
- Year 6: 3% raise = $2,608 New salary: $89,554
- Year 7: 3% raise = $2,687 New salary: $92,241
- Year 8: 3% raise = $2,767 New salary: $95,008
Now. I could easily take everything I learned at Company X including new contacts and relationships and look for a job at the end of Year 2 that pays me, let's say, $15,000 more per year. The delta between the salary at the old job ($79,500) and the new job ($94,500) is ~19%. With an annual 3% pay increase it would take you until halfway through Year 7 to make the same amount of money you could have scored at a new job starting at the end of Year 2, likely with more responsibility and more opportunity to learn and progress even more in your role. And you've likely saved yourself from having to watch 2.0ers roll in at Years 3 - 8 making 15%+ more than you. Um, doing the same role.
In short: Stay 3 years. Kill it. Learn everything you can. And hit it. The only exception is if you've found your dream job, your dream boss, and you've signed and notarized what I like to call a "business pre-nup" that precludes that if your dream boss leaves the company for any reason after an agreed-upon number of years and receives a golden parachute, so do you, for time served. (That's in the book. Buy it when it drops.)
I teach mindset. Being the smartest player on the field. Not the waterboy. Knowing the game and being ready well in advance of hearing you're being traded or cut is what it now takes to always be okay in today's business climate. Making bold moves and negotiating your ass off to protect and grow your brand while reciprocally helping a company grow theirs is the new, boss move. Resting on your heritage, loyalty, and expertise is recipe for a whole lot of tears streaming down your face as you walk past your colleagues with your sad box right out the door for the last time, when you could have sworn you were killin' it. Don't be that person.
Be ready. So that you don't have to get ready.