When you sit down with someone like Ben Boyd you get the sense that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. He radiates the ease of small town South Carolina where he grew up, and the wherewithal of someone born, bred and buried in New York City.
From his first job on Capitol Hill, to becoming the first CCO of BarnesandNoble.com, to the many roles he’s held within Edelman – Ben has made a career out of communicating, and a very successful one at that. So when I sat down to ask Ben how exactly he got his start he smiled and said: “I started at Wake Forest as an English major. My Dad asked me what I was going to do with that, and I told him that if you don’t know how to communicate, it doesn’t really matter what you know. Clearly, I was a good bullsh*tter… but I knew I’d figure it out.”
Fast forward 20 years and he’s certainly figured it out. The key to his success? Measuring his career by respect, reward and challenge:
Respect: Are you respected as a contributor within your organization? Is what you bring to the table valued?
Reward: Are you compensated fairly for the work that you do? Do you have opportunities to work on the type of business you’re interested in?
Challenge: Are you learning? Are you challenged to bring your best? Are you learning as a leader?
These three fundamentals can look different at different stages of your career, but it’s important that these three things stay in sync. So what happens if one or more gets out of whack?
Speak up: Do not pass go, do not collect $200…talking to your manager is always the best place to start. Remember that a good manager only wants to see you succeed, and will want to work with you to make sure that respect, reward and challenge are realized.
Be an active part of the fix: Before you go to your manager, think of what can be done to improve or change your situation and offer some possible solutions. If you’re drawing a blank, go into the conversation with a few questions that will prompt a productive dialogue. Use it as an opportunity to align on key objectives you need to reach to advance and ask if you’re contributing what you should. Your manager should do his or her part, but so should you.
As Ben said, a plan is a good thing to have, but a plan is only as good as your ability to change it. Just like life, work will inevitably throw you a few curve balls. Sometimes a curve ball will mean jumping into a role you fall into, and sometimes it’ll mean creating a role where you think you add value. And other times, it might even mean moving on to new opportunities when respect, reward and challenge aren’t adding up… and there isn’t a fix.
The bottom line? In any job, at any stage of your career, you have to have the courage to find your own way. You can’t sit around and wait for an opportunity to present itself, or a problem to solve itself. Or, as Ben said, “You can, but…”