Advancing from eligible to successful

LL 96 from eligible to successfulI once received this real cover letter by a hopeful but clueless job applicant (quoted here exactly):

Dear [Mr./ Herd
Throughout my tenure [at specific name of company, with my current employer,] I frequently had the opportunity to use my [skill or skill set] and I’m proud that [I, we] were able to [grow size of business, increase productivity, increase sales, meet deadline]…

Unfortunately, it went on like that for another three agonizing paragraphs! I’ll spare you the rest.

Eligibly Proficient
Back when I was a fresh Know-It-All out of college, and the Whole World was open to me, and I needed a Job, but I had no Experience, yet I had the Best Can-Do Attitude In The World, I wondered why I was still Broke and Jobless.

In a word: Unqualified. Not too much unlike the clueless cover letter writer.

Don’t misunderstand: I’d spent four years acquiring a Bachelor of Science degree (not cum laude, mind you, but O Lawd! I was glad to get out! Also: I would have done better, but we covered new material every semester!) Technically, yes, I was eligible for the jobs I wanted.

In today’s competitively demanding environment, it’s not enough to be basically proficient. Yeah, it’s great to be able to edit a manuscript, care for a patient, solve differential equations, design load-bearing structures, and create bug-free apps. But if your knowledge, once gained, merely hangs on the wall in a frame, that’s about all you may ever do with it.

Instead, your stash of knowledge must be reinvested to produce a diversified portfolio for long-term gains: To technical proficiency, add practical experience. To experience, add savvy capability. To capability, add comprehensive expertise.

Skillfully Qualified
And after considerable effort: congrats—you’re qualified!

Yet world-class athletes who hope to medal at the Olympics know that they can never be satisfied with their previous achievements. To merely qualify to compete at that level they must be at the top of their game. And that comes from an intentional regimen of constant mental and physical development.

Likewise, polishing your existing skills and honing additional abilities merely allows you to remain competitive. And although qualified, it certainly doesn’t guarantee a win. Consider:

  • In the 2000 Summer Olympics, sprinter Marion Jones won five medals in the track and field competitions. Seven years later, she admitted to having taken performance enhancing drugs, forfeited her Olympic medals and glory, and spent six months in prison: “I made a poor choice,” she said. Qualified by skill; disqualified by rule.
  • In 2011, actor Charlie Sheen underwent his third rehab attempt in 12 months, after a history of alcohol, drug abuse, marital problems and alleged domestic abuse. Two months later, he was fired from his TV show after publicly disparaging the show’s creator. “I’m tired of pretending I’m not special,” he ranted. “I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars.” Qualified by talent; excluded by abuse, arrogance, and lack of common decency.
  • Dr. Clarkson Wentz, an eminent physician and Chairman of the organization I worked for nearly 30 years ago, was fired from his first job as a hospital radiologist for professional irresponsibility. “Best thing that ever happened to me!” he declared, because it gave him the kick in the pants he needed to change. Qualified by expertise; unqualified by unaccountability. Re-qualified by realigning his behavior.

Eminently Successful
Yet despite possessing the “right” qualifications for a particular job or niche, what often helps cap the win and achieve the highest prize are key relational skills developed through a helpful, cooperative and others-oriented demeanor with other people.

We can’t compete or achieve in a vacuum. As someone once noted: with just one minor exception, the whole world is composed of other people. So to come along, we must get along:

  • Be helpful. Understand what motivates other people and seek to help them achieve.
  • Be cooperative. Invest in teamwork and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Be trustworthy. Prove to be responsible, accountable and reliable in all your dealings.
  • Be respectful. Keep a positive attitude with your co-workers, teammates and superiors.
  • Be authentic. Stay open, honest, approachable and real with all people everywhere.
  • Be kind. Practice that ancient golden rule of treating people they way you enjoy being treated.

Such people-oriented tactics in your hands as a qualified practitioner will enable you to reach the finish line—together—in a win for all.

MasterPoint: To come along successfully, get along relationally.