#JobsMatter (Part 4)
When I was a young engineer, the government of India sent some retired executives to Zimbabwe as part of a mentoring exercise. They were assigned to various departments of the public telephone company where I worked at the time.
The irony is that no one was actually assigned to my own department, but I nevertheless sought them out and befriended one of them who was very excited to engage me. He would come to my office and just chat with me over lunch, and even in the evenings.
He had been a very senior executive in the Indian telephone company, but was now retired. It actually surprised him that the person he ended up mentoring was not the person he had come to mentor. That guy thought he was too important to be hanging around with an old Indian executive. I invited this guy to my flat, to visit places, and all the while I asked him questions.
I had never met anyone (in my entire life) who had been that senior in an organization before, what is known popularly today as the “C-suite.” This was my opportunity to learn about what happens there!
I literally pestered the guy, and he enjoyed it. For him, it was like he was back at work. As for me, I had set my eyes on being in the C-suite of a major organization...
__But how can I get there, if I don’t know what is there?
He also encouraged me to read books by the world’s leading executives and entrepreneurs. It became a lifelong habit.
One day my now friend came to my office, and he found me devastated.
“What is the matter?” he asked.
I told him that I had been taken off a list of engineers heading to Japan for several months of training. I was hurt and bitter. I knew that I was the most qualified person who had been dropped. I believed it was because the relative of a powerful politician who was much less qualified, and in a totally unrelated area, had been given the opportunity ahead of me. I was literally dropped.
My Indian friend consoled me with some life lessons which I will share here with you, to add to the life lessons above:
# Your career development is too important to outsource, even to the most progressive employer in the world. He told me to take charge of my own career development.
“There are lots of things you can do to invest in your own career development,” he said.
He challenged me to put down a list of the things I thought I would learn in Japan, and we then sat down and tried to come up with ways to get the same knowledge without the help of my employer. I found that with a bit of ingenuity, commitment, and passion, I could develop my own personal training and coaching program.
“Whilst your colleagues are in Japan, why don’t we pretend that you are also in Japan on training?”
“So what are you doing this weekend?”
“Watching football with my friends.”
“Actually no. I have to spend some time studying and reading.”
# What are you doing to advance yourself?
There is much more you can do for yourself than you probably appreciate. Today there are a lot more avenues for self-promoted advancement than ever before.
# Television and the Internet should not be seen purely as tools for entertainment. It’s not going to be easy but you have to force yourself, just like I did all those years ago.
By the way, one of my friends who went on the training trip was amazed to find how relaxed I was about being left out of the trip, when they returned. He was even more surprised to learn that I was no longer available for a lot of the things we used to do together at weekends, and in the evenings. I had changed forever, whilst he was in Japan!
# I turned that setback into one of the greatest benefits in my life.
Just before he returned to his country, my Indian friend (mentor) said to me:
“You are going to be more successful than even I could imagine.” This is after I told him I did not have time to attend a cricket match (a shared passion)!
The people who get ahead are those who seek out and seize an opportunity. I literally “hijacked” that Indian program. It was not the first time and would not be the last that I did that with an opportunity which others were just wasting! You must do the same, because “no one owes you a living.”
People who spend their time saying “Why can’t so-and-so do this for me?” will be saying that at the end of an unfulfilled life!
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