Come Out at Work: As Inexperienced

Try to find someone on LinkedIn who acknowledges his inexperience. OK, you can find a few, yet out of 150 million+ users, rare is the individual who openly claims his lack of practical knowledge.

Until now.

Thanks to Sir Richard Branson, we see that a dearth of experience is less of a problem, and more a path to advancement.

In a recent Q & A at Entrepreneur, the chair of the Virgin Group debunks the stigma of inexperience. He writes:

A lack of experience does not have to be a liability — it can be an asset. It is something you should play up when you discuss your ideas with prospective investors, partners and employees.

He drives his point home with a personal story:

I have always used my own and my team’s lack of experience to our advantage. In fact, at our first venture, Student magazine, we used our newcomer status to secure great interviews and generate publicity — people were excited about our new project and wanted to get involved. Our inexperience fed our restless enthusiasm for trying new things, which became part of our core mission.

Don’t you love the way he turns something potentially mortifying into an opportunity, and seizes it outright? Perhaps it’s time for you to come out at work with your inexperience.

As Branson points out, you have nothing to hide, and a lot of business to gain.

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Come Out at Work: As a Student [video]

Unless you’re still pursuing your formal education, you’re probably thinking “my student days are over!”

Oh, but they aren’t.

Our student days die only when we do, so you may as well come out at work as a lifelong learner.

President Obama agrees.

In a recent interview with ABC News‘s Diane Sawyer, he spoke about his experience at work:

There’re always things that you’re learning in the job. And I have no doubt that I’m a better president now than the day I took office just because you get more experience.

He came out at work as a student! We’re all learning as we go along at work–about our selves, our colleagues, our task, the world. That the highest executive in the United States’ government openly owns his learning process on the job might inspire the rest of us to do the same.

Yet we know that hurdles abound. Read more

What Sheryl Sandberg Didn’t Say at Davos [video]

Facebook Inc.’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and related important ideas about women in the workplace. She said we need to be mindful of how we’re socializing boys and girls at home, and called on chief executives to implement equal maternity and paternity leave policies.

Great stuff, right? And yet we’re totally disappointed in her.

Facebook recently filed for an initial public offering (IPO) that’s expected to raise up to $10bn this spring, and which could compensate Sandberg $1.6bn, solidifying her place among the most powerful executives in America.

Because of her newfound perch at the top, when she speaks about her professional trajectory and gender equality, it’s time she acknowledges the full range of dynamics that have helped her get there.

What dynamics?

That her Whiteness has played a role in her success.

Ay, that was hard to write. And we don’t mean to target the newest billionaire simply because she’s a woman. We’re critical of representations of White male leadership, too.

Sandberg’s story goes like this:  Read more

The President Does This, So Can You

Everybody has experience with it, yet few will admit it. One of those rare individuals who openly acknowledges his behavior is President Barack Obama.

We’re talking about making mistakes.

A Daily News story about the president’s recent interview with Barbara Walters reports:

A candid Obama reflected on the first three years of administration and freely admitted he has made mistakes.

“Oh, I think probably once a day, I look back and I say, ‘You know, I could have done that a little bit better,’” Obama told ABC’s Barbara Walters.

Making mistakes once a day sounds kind of frequent, no? But then if you consider the number of minutes in a day, it doesn’t sound so bad. To be sure, it takes an exceptional leader to expose his vulnerabilities so freely; he disarms his critics by unabashedly highlighting his errors.

Should you admit your mistakes at work, too?

Yes, if you want to build strong relationships.  And who doesn’t? Think about what you demonstrate when you acknowledge your imperfections. For example, you show:

  • an ability to self-reflect
  • that you’re trustworthy
  • you can forgive yourself, and by extension, are likely to forgive others
  • strength in the certainty that your mistakes won’t kill you
  • that you can find relief, and peace of mind.

So come out at work as someone who makes mistakes. By showcasing all these positive attributes, you’re likely to draw numerous people to you.

Even if you’re not the POTUS seeking re-election, you can enjoy the many benefits of saying you’re wrong.

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Let Out Your Inner Geek [video]

What were you interested in when you were 12? And do you incorporate it into your work today?

Maybe you should.

Our newest favorite scientist, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, loved looking through telescopes at the age of 12. Now age 53, he hasn’t stopped yet.

Spotlighted by Carl Zimmer recently in Playboy magazine, the director of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History started out with a 2.4-inch refractor with three eyepieces and a solar projection screen. Writes Zimmer:

Tyson would run an extension cord across [his Bronx apartment building]’s two-acre roof into a friend’s apartment window. Fairly often, someone would call the police. He charmed the cops with the rings of Saturn.

His shenanigans were not without purpose. Three years later he would give his first hour-long lecture to fifty adults, fulfilling his wish to talk to people about the beauty of the universe.

We can really feel his passion for studying the cosmos. In fact he once said, “For me, talking about the universe was like breathing.”

Read more

Top 10 Tips for Switching Careers [video]

You know these techniques have to do with revealing your whole self at work, the question is:  how?

We look to the career path of Dr. Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a genetics research center established to help scientists work collaboratively, and whose mission includes discovering the molecular basis of major human diseases. He started out as a math genius, and–good for him–wanted more.

Recently highlighted in the New York Times, Dr. Lander’s work history can serve as a guide on how to find more fulfillment by switching your career track. From his story we gather these top 10 tips for switching careers:

1. Disrespect convention. If you’re working to transform something — be it a whole discipline, or your individual career — traditional norms may get in your way. Dr. Lander relates why the Broad Institute is interdisciplinary at its core:

We used to have these boundaries of the chemistry department in the chemistry building, and the biology department in the biology building, the math department, the computer science department. Young scientists today… have no respect for these boundaries, and they shouldn’t. They just munge it together… people are now exploring the fusion cuisine that comes out across all these different disciplines.

2. Leverage your frustrations. Author Gina Kolata writes:

“I began to appreciate that the career of mathematics is rather monastic,” Dr. Lander said. “Even though mathematics was beautiful and I loved it, I wasn’t a very good monk.” He craved a more social environment, more interactions.

3. Identify all your talents, then use them.

“I found an old professor of mine and said, ‘What can I do that makes some use of my talents?’ ” He ended up at Harvard Business School, teaching managerial economics.

4. Embrace your naivete. So many of us try to hide our inexperience; Lander knows better:

Read more

Admit This, and Soar to New Heights

Are you a finished product? We hope not, because if you were, by definition you’d be “finished.”  If you’re living, then you’re growing and learning, or evolving.

And this is a boon to your professional development.

As the principal says in the song “Dudley Pippin and the Principal” from Marlo Thomas’s Free to Be… You and Me,

Most people spend their entire lives trying to get un-mixed up!

Every one of us is a work in progress, including First Lady of the United States of America Michelle Obama.

Featured recently in a New York Times article titled “Michelle Obama and the Evolution of a First Lady,” the Harvard Law School graduate and former Sidley Austin associate is portrayed as one who’s learning and growing on the job. Author Jodi Kantor writes:

Michelle Obama’s trajectory in the White House was changing. She was mastering and subtly redefining the role that had once seemed formless to her, and becoming more acclimated to her new life.

You thought she arrived fully formed in her role as First Lady? To the contrary, like all of us, Obama is allowed to give herself space to acclimate to her professional role, and develop from there. Determining how to take up our role and task is part of what makes work engaging.

The wife of the President is aiming for new heights this year. If she can meet success by taking time to define her own work-life trajectory, so can you.  Or rather, so should you.  Admit that you’re in the grips of an evolution yourself, then see how high you soar.

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