Everyone is the CEO of their own enterprise.
You are the CEO of You Inc. It might be a benefit to understand your job.
Young people have trouble with self management because they don’t know what management means. People who have not thought about management make the mistake of treating it as a single problem. It is two and other than the goal, they have little commonality.
Maximize the profit (advantage) for the owner of You Inc.
That involves several parts grouped into two aspects.
- Administration (tactical and logistical things) The how we do it questions.
- Executive (strategic things) The what do I want, when, who with, where, and what with, questions.
Executive decisions are about effectiveness while administration is about efficiency. Doing right things as opposed to doing things right. For young people, there is a tendency to miss the executive function, or more likely treat it as an unconnected dream. Management involves connecting dreams to a process that achieves them.
Allocating resources is the key executive decision.
Education, for example, is a productivity and creativity asset. Useful skills and ways to apply them. Allocating resources to education may have been an intuitive decision, or maybe guided by others. As you move on in life, you will be the one making the allocation decisions. Take you experience from education and learn what the decisions are and how to analyze them.
You might have analyzed why you should take engineering instead of English literature. You could have decided your passion, skills, time and money were more suited to engineering. You Inc should also have considered the availability of jobs and salary. A well reasoned strategic decision is motivating.
People who make their own decisions are more enthusiastic. They know why and can fall back on that when things go awry. You devote more energy to achieving excellence when you pursue something you enjoy, something you are good at, and when there is a reward.
You Inc has made other strategic decisions along the way. Electives are like research. Might be something there. Friends, TAs, and professors are part of your still developing contact network. People resources. There is likely an inventory of mistake-based knowledge. Hold that one close. Learning what does not work is important. Just like a business learns from its mistakes. Look up “New Coke”
Resources have limits, so allocation matters.
You can’t do everything at once. The executive’s objective at You Inc is to to provide the greatest reward for the shareholder, you. Executives do that by effective allocation of time, talent, energy, experience, and money
You can define reward any way that motivates. Could be money. Could be the good of society. Could be personal pleasure. Could be the admiration of others. There is no right one, but there is a reasonable combination of them.
Money matters, but it isn’t everything
Be sure to get optimal value from your education. Keep the costs down and the opportunities up. It is hard to be personally satisfied when you earn nothing or have vast debt. Money you can use gives you choices. However, money for its own sake, seldom works. See money in perspective. Next year might be different, so prepare. “Future you” will prefer “present you” be better at allocating money both to projects and in time. Lack of money limits choices and it does not always show up right away.
Notice what you have and what you need. Allocating resources includes balancing those. Some needs are still in the future but you can’t ignore them forever.
Structurally, You Inc’s capital allocation problem is not materially different from the one facing executives at Microsoft and GE.
Implement the choices
Administrative management is entirely different. It is about creating or finding methods and carrying out the purposes created at the executive level. It is the “just do it” part.
It is a two-part thing. Choosing a method to achieve the goal and implementing the method. Implementing includes record keeping, review, and revision.
You must learn to change.
Guess what. Not everything you do will work. Learning what does not work sooner is a good thing. Keep track and act on what you find. Keep the goal, change the method of achieving it. Edison claims to have tried a thousand ways to make a light bulb. The method changed, the goal remained.
Marketing is a common problem.
You Inc delivers a service that involves skill, enthusiasm, training and time. The skills provide no value to You Inc until there is a customer who is willing to exchange money for them. They will not do so until they know about you.
Sometimes the manager of You Inc believes their value offered is so high that others will seek them out. Never happens! There is always someone with similar values beating on the customer’s door. You Inc is never the sole supplier of any service or product. You Inc has to present themselves well to deserve the business.
Job seeking for You Inc is no different from customer seeking for Microsoft or GE. Find situations where both supplier and customer benefit from the exchange of values. Your skills for their money, employee benefits, training and experience. Look past the money.
Presenting well includes other skills provided at the administrative level.
Do you keep track of your budget so you don’t overspend or go into needless debt. Good habit. It is easy to spend first money foolishly. Employers would like to know you care about efficient spending.
Do you keep track of things like how many resumes you sent out or delivered, and what happened to each? Businesses spend big to capture and use data to improve their productivity. At some level, it doesn’t matter whether they hear yes or no. They learn from either. Organized data guides decisions and tactics. Keep track of things.
Keeping track helps develop discipline.
Discipline matters because nothing happens until you do something. Discipline helps you suffer through the hard times and emerge a better presenter. If you do not demand certain activity, you will have little to manage. Getting customers is a numbers game. It is impossible to make a decent presentation to 50 people and hear “NO!” 50 times. You are more valuable than you think.
Discipline demands order. Promote success by ensuring you:
- Complete assignments on time,
- Get out of bed at a consistent time,
- Keep yourself and your accommodation tidy,
- Are fit and energetic,
- Reply to emails and other correspondence.
- Are unstressed
People see you are available, predictable and reliable.
Research & Development
Graduating is not the end of the road. It is the on-ramp to another series of adventures. Never stop being a student. Things change quickly and you can fall behind. Learning how to learn is an important part of education. Do not give up the skill. Every employer values it and it will make your future easier and more profitable.
Marketing, Sales, and Communication.
As you have probably noticed a lot of success relies on your ability to communicate your value. Communication involves two persons. You and to whoever you are aiming the message. If communication fails it is always the fault of the sender. Communicate in ways that allow the recipient to pay attention.
Some is obvious. Use text abbreviations when communicating with a senior executive is foolish. You might as well have an introductory sentence that says either, “I am an idiot,” or “I don’t care about what you want or need.”
Think about grammar, spelling, font choice and length of the communication. There is about 0% probability that anyone will read a poorly edited letter, formatted with 18-point Comic Sans. People can simplify their day by throwing things away. Try not to make it easy for them to toss your communication.
Think about delivery.
Face to face is best, but difficult. Everyone is time sensitive. The telephone is good too and again difficult. People learn more about you when they can see or hear you. If you present well that is to your advantage. What more do you need to know about presentation? How you conduct yourself with your friends might not be good enough.
Snail-mail on good paper is acceptable.
Unless specifically asked for, e-mail and text might not work. Unless they are part of an ongoing communication, they are easy to ignore and show a lack of effort on your part. They are not the best way to make first contact.
Once you are involved
Holding a given degree, diploma or apprenticeship completion, by itself, proves two valuable things.
- You have acquired some skills
- You finish what you start
A degree is a minimum requirement. It will help get you in the door, but if your administrative skills are weak, or you believe you know everything, it won’t keep you inside the door. Only what you can do, actually do, and might be able to do, keeps you there and advancing.
Advancing will arise from your executive skills, too. Again how you allocate your resources. Do you voluntarily work longer hours to get work done and gain experience from doing so? Do you take relevant courses? Most important, how are your people skills?
Do people value your input? Are you persuasive? Can you get the best out of others around you? It is like a hockey team. Some players are exceptional, but do not make the ones around them better. Others are near invisible, but their group is more successful. Assists matter.
People Skills Are Two Way.
Do you help others achieve and do you have someone who helps you achieve? Are you a good coach? Are you coachable?
Who is your coach?
Having a mentor is a huge advantage and you may have to look for one. Mentors are not a given, but they will be a significant determining factor in the ultimate success of You Inc.
No one is ever ready for complete management of their enterprise. Having someone who has been there and who is willing to share their experience is important. Don’t be shy. Ask questions of everyone around you. In the beginning mentorship by committee is acceptable.
People Buy A Package. Be Sure You Have a Good One.
Skilled, hard working, ethical, sharing, easy to get along with, innovative, curious and more. Like a hockey team, employers are looking at the package. Pro scouts watch everything. It is not all on the ice. How a prospect dresses and treats other people matters. What energy level do they show in non-hockey situations? Are they focused on fitness? Do they seek improvement? Do they engender trust? Do people look to them for leadership? Body language, handshake, eye contact. You might never know what someone else draws from those questions and observations.
I know one employer who made a decision about hiring a candidate by how he ate asparagus. Stem first or tip first? Stem first people are more likely to defer gratification. Could be true and matter, but in this case, the one he hired didn’t work out. People are complicated.
You Inc has more to offer than it might think. Time to take inventory and plan how to show the resource to others.
Then you must do it. Nothing happens until then.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772