Preparation Is the Key to Mastery of Your Career Story

Tom Peters, the author and speaker who (according to his Twitter bio) has been “labeled the Red Bull of management thinking,” put up a tweet a couple months ago that has stuck with me:

Preparation Is the Key to Mastery

Mr. Peters thought is one that connects with a previous post, in which I talked about preparation as “allow[ing] you to find common threads that help you form the personal brand that articulates the value you bring along with you.” If you think about it, whether you are on an active job hunt or are serious about having a well-managed career, having the ability to confidently and clearly state what you represent and how others can benefit is the mastery of your career story. And that is something that takes practice.

It can be easy to get lulled into thinking that you don’t have to prepare, especially if you are not looking for a job. “I know what I’ve done. What’s the big deal?” you may be thinking. The main reason why preparation is a bigger deal than you may be letting yourself believe:

You never know when opportunities will arise, and when they do, you don’t want to mess it up.

Sure, you expect to talk about yourself in certain situations — professional networking events, conferences, even a neighborhood cook-out. But what about the line in the grocery store? Picking up your child from daycare? Waiting for your turn in the dentist’s chair? (Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers has listed several other unexpected places to network.) Few folks anticipate that these interactions with random strangers could result in potential opportunities, and yet, when a person is prepared, that’s just what could happen.

Last summer, my husband and I were at a local big box hardware store, looking to replace our patio door. The high-end brand name was more than we wanted to spend, but another known brand had a reputation for being cheaply made. Then there was a third brand, which neither my husband nor I had ever heard of. We were just starting to speak to a store clerk when a man who seemed to possess quite a bit of knowledge about patio doors joined the conversation.

He initially steered us away from the cheaply made door by recounting a story in which he had installed it for a family member, but it had warped within a year and was unusable. He said that he owned a home repair/construction business and gave us information on qualities and features we should be looking for in a good door. Then we asked him his opinion about the product made by the unknown manufacturer. He read the specs and looked at the sample door in the store; he listed several reasons why he felt it was a good quality door.

After the conversation wound down and the man went on his way, it occurred to me that he hadn’t told us the name of his business or given us a business card. Had he been prepared, he wouldn’t have missed that critical networking opportunity.

Do you want to look back at situations and cringe because you missed prime opportunities?

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