Some Counter Intuitive Career Success Advice

Some of my best career advice is counter intuitive.  In today’s highly competitive world, it is tempting to put yourself and your needs first, and everybody else second.  But today, I offer this bit of career success advice — Think BIG WE and little me.

Thinking and acting BIG WE little me is not about denying yourself, your needs, or your individuality.  It is about realizing that you are part of a whole that is greater than you.  We all are.  We are members of families, communities, work organizations and societies.  While we all have to take responsibility for ourselves and our life and career success, we need to do so in a way that honors the various wholes of which we are a part.

The I-centric thinking that led us into the greatest financial crisis since the great depression is and example of the opposite of this rule.  It is “BIG ME little we” thinking to the max. “I’ll get mine, you need to watch out for yourself.” 

BIG WE little me thinking on the other hand, comes from a perspective of, “We’re all in this together.”  In other words, you need to take care of yourself  and create your own life and career success, but in a manner that enhances the greater good; or at least does no harm.

It’s not easy to approach life from a “BIG WE little me” perspective.  We see the exact opposite of this type of thinking every day.  Here are a few examples… 

Companies play budgetary games.  They pay a premium for temporary workers who fill necessary slots in their workforce.  They do this because temporary workers are a variable cost that can easily be eliminated, and look better on the balance sheet. 

Managers argue among themselves about which department should absorb costs that benefit the entire organization.  They do this because they are more worried about their department’s budget performance then the financial performance of their company. 

Individuals say things like, “It’s not my fault, it’s hers.  I sent her an email, she never got back to me with the information I needed to complete this assignment.” They do this because they are more interested in their own performance rating then they are the performance of their company.

These are real examples that play out every day in US companies.  They are an example of BIG ME, little we thinking.  It takes courage to change this type of thinking.  It begins with personal responsibility.  For example, if someone doesn’t respond to your request in a timely manner, call or visit him or her.  Explain the urgency of your need.  Help him or her understand.  Offer to help him or her down the road.  That’s not only taking personal responsibility for your career success, it’s “BIG WE, little me” thinking in action.

In 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success, I discuss the importance of mentors and mentoring.  Mentors, by definition, embody “BIG WE, little me” thinking.  They are successful people who are willing to give of themselves, their time and energy to help others learn, grow and create their own life and career success.  Through their efforts, they not only help individual people grow and develop and build their career success, they strengthen their organizations and communities.

You can demonstrate “BIG WE, little me” thinking by becoming a mentor yourself.  It’s never too early to become a mentor.  We all have something to give.  The sooner you begin giving, the better.  If you’re in college, you can mentor high school students.  If you’re a recent college graduate, you can mentor others still in school.  If you’ve been in your job for a year or two, you can mentor a brand new colleague.  Because you learn something best when you teach it to others, mentoring is a great way to create the career success you deserve, to serve others and your organization; and demonstrate a “BIG WE, little me” attitude.

In The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace, Scott Peck offers a great example of the BIG WE, little me concept.  He calls it “true community;” characterized by “deep respect and true listening for the needs of the other people.”  Notice that he does not suggest that people subjugate their own wants and needs, only that they pay closer attention to the wants and needs of the people around them.  When you do this consistently, you are a BIG WE, little me person, an asset to yourself, your organization and your community, and are on your way to creating the life and career success you want and deserve.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Think BIG WE, little me.  Pay attention to the people around you – their needs and wants.  Do what you can to help others get what they want and you’ll be on your way to creating the life and career success you want.  BIG WE, little me thinking and behaving is not about denying yourself, your needs, or your individuality.  It is about realizing that you are part of a whole that is greater than you and doing your best for yourself and your company, community or society.

That’s my take on the counter intuitive career advice embodied in thinking BIG WE, little me.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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