We’re used to the idea that working hard should be enough to open doors for us. Yes, it does but better and more valuable opportunities come when you become smarter about work and how you utilise your network.
We investigate why working hard is not just enough and why finding a champion is good career move.
Why working hard should not be a goal but a practice
People always like to claim that they work hard but most of the time, the very essence of working hard gets thrown around mistakenly. Accepting a job position means that you must do it well. You don’t get bonus points for doing it correctly because there is an understanding it is expected. Being noticed or opening opportunities require more effort.
A lot of people get caught up in the “performance currency”. According to Carla Harris, vice chairman, managing director and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley. People tend to over invest on this because it’s a safe metric. It is black and white. Which often means that the basis for checking if the person is productive is whether they clocked in the hours.
According to Leila Hock’s piece: “Generally, when people say they’re “working hard,” they mean they’re putting a lot of time in. What they (generally) don’t mean is that they’ve put a lot of thought into that work, or that they know what they’re working on is contributing to something important”.
However, more than just putting in the time, we must look closer to how it’s spent and the value you do with it. Harris, who happens to be one of the highest ranking African American women on Wall Street, suggests refocusing our efforts to building relationships aside from bringing in strong results.
One of the best relationships to build is with a champion for your career. According to Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj in her Forbes’ piece: “A champion is not a sponsor nor a mentor. A champion is a senior leader, who may or may not be in your organization, but has the influence to open doors and talk about you”.
Finding your champion
Your champion will see your potential and your future version. The person has to know what you’re capable of so they can talk about your capabilities in their circle. However, for you to get your champion, you need to be one of the “ones to watch” (OTW). Champions often take on the job nurturing the talent if they see your value now and in the future.
As Janjuha-Jivraj writes: “Champions have a vested interest in this process, a belief in nurturing talent in their teams and recognition of the importance of creating strong teams as part of their succession planning”. Champions only invest in the deserving considering the risks that comes with aligning their brand with that person.
How can you find a champion?
First, aim for the 4 Cs. Champions look for and invest resources in other people even without benefiting directly or immediately. What motivates them usually if the fulfilment of identifying great talent and supporting them to reach their full potential. Try to be:
- Credible – you must be investment-worthy. Do you do your job well?
- Confident – it’s more about finding the pain points and understanding which areas you need a boost on. You can land a challenging job if you know your strengths and weaknesses well.
- Consistent – flashes of greatness is good but champions look for people who can be consistent in their performance and behaviour. They look for someone well regarded by their peers and colleagues.
- Connected – you can build your brand better if you have a good network of people.
These are about you but aside from a well-connected person, who can you consider a champion? Look for senior leaders who are established enough among their peers to give you opportunities. Look for someone who provides critical feedback, willingness to invest and nurture people including those helpful enough to give recommendations (even slightly at first) on how you can move forward. The right champion helps you but do not mollycoddle – they push you hard enough to be the best version.
At Orbium, we have always believed in the role of senior leaders in nurturing the younger and future generation. See how some of our employees have evolved with their own champion exposure in the company: