This article is part of an exclusive month-long program on CAREEREALISM to help readers break free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Click HERE to learn more about the Professional Emancipation Project, a.k.a. The P.E.P. Talk.
Professional emancipation is good news. It frees professionals to work on projects where they can excel, and jettison work they’re not suited for. It allows them the space to bring more of “themselves” to work. It lowers experts’ switching costs when changing jobs, in turn forcing employers to engage professionals in a more genuine, holistic, and interested way. It simplifies how professionals get things done by allowing them to tap personal networks when formal channels get clogged.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that social communication tools have completely changed the communication landscape—and that changing the way we communicate has fundamentally changed what’s possible at work.
But let’s be clear: your professional emancipation will be scary if you’re not prepared. Nature abhors a vacuum, and emancipation creates a vacuum. It eliminates the structures you’re used to. You may hate those structures, but they’re your comfort zone, and you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Unless you’re ready, in which case your emancipation will be exactly what you hope: freedom.
So let’s get you ready:
6 Strategies For Professional Emancipation
(And I’m serious: these aren’t tactics masquerading as strategies, these are real, honest-to-goodness strategies. They’ll take time—something between months and years—to implement. And you may want a coach to help you.)
1. Be Profersonal™
The level of transparency social media brings to communication is destroying the lines between our personal and professional networks faster than we can recreate them. And that’s a good thing. Imagine yourself as a successful executive.
You’ve been working for 30 years and have developed a great reputation. Is it possible to achieve that without having befriended at least a few key clients along the way? Executives, sales professionals, and recruiters have long lived a profersonal™ existence. Now the rest of us will, too. Upshot: friending your boss on Facebook is next season’s black.
2. Be Present Now
I advocate for a form of branding I have dubbed Workforce Marketing—the alignment between individual and organizational brands. It’s counterintuitive, but this alignment is critical in an emancipated world. When everyone’s a free agent, skills get commoditized, so the way in which you differentiate shifts from hard skills (“I’m an engineer”) to softer skills (“I’m a team player”).
Of course, you could tell everyone that you’re passionate and innovative, but you’ve probably already tried that on your LinkedIn profile, and discovered it doesn’t work. The easiest way to communicate your soft skills is to attach yourself to the company you work for, completely and without reservation.
Consider the difference between: “I’m an SEO expert for Google,” and “I’m an SEO expert for Greenpeace.” The association communicates a tremendous amount, with the added benefit of brevity. This is the power of Workforce Marketing for the emancipated professional. Upshot: change your LinkedIn summary.
4. Be Focused
The other way to differentiate your skills is to get hyper-focused. Hyper super ultra über focused. The faster people can opt in to or out of your services, the better. Upshot: knowing exactly what you want makes you more attractive and, ironically, opens more doors for you than trying to keep yourself “ready for anything.”
5. Be Savvy…Er
We all love to hate politics—myself included. But consider this scenario: it’s you and four colleagues on a project. You have to work together to succeed, but only one of you will be retained for Phase two. Oh, and the client is great person who you love working with, but he’s a notoriously unclear communicator who often shares out-of-date information or mistakes unconfirmed rumor for fact. (I think we know how this story ends.) Upshot: politics, done right, isn’t backstabbing, but open-face poker. The first step in learning it is to stop hating it.
6. Be Friends With Your Exes
I had a friend in college who would break up with a girl on a Tuesday and would have a date with the girl’s roommate by Friday—set up by the ex herself. It took me years to understand how he did it, or why. Now I get it. He was starting with the end in mind. He knew his ex would continue to be in his life, so rather than treat break-ups as ends, he treated them as transitions. Upshot: be like my friend.
7. Be Forward-Facing
The downside of freedom is the ambiguity that comes with it: should you take this project, or wait for the next one? And of course, whichever you choose, it’ll be wrong. Upshot: Make a choice, stick with it, move forward. No need for regret, regret will only compound your mistakes with extra stress.
Professional emancipation is a big deal… and these strategies will get you ready in a big way… good luck!
The P.E.P. Talk
This article is part of our P.E.P. Talk Series. Over the next month, some of the brightest and best authors, business professionals, and coaches are coming together to share their valuable advice for breaking free of “The Golden Handcuff Effect” so you can take full ownership of your careers and experience Professional Emancipation.
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