How to create a more rewarding career path

wavePay-off: will point you towards a stronger career path which you’ll benefit from for years
Investment: 5 mins

Are you riding, creating or amplifying waves?

Too many people in my experience think they’re on solid ground in their work. Let me make it clear – you’re not on solid ground and you’re not ‘on the right track’ or the ‘wrong track’. You’re on water. In fact, you’re on waves.

Whether you sell in your role (hint, you do) or just deliver to your customers or your employer, it pays to know about the waves in your industry, market, or organisation.

These are the waves you can leap between or fall between. They are constantly moving. They are not stable. But you can balance on them, amplify them, or even create them. But you need to understand the 3 main ways to engage with ‘waves’. Only then can you plan how to optimise your approach and carve a more rewarding career path.

Riding waves

You’re riding waves if you’re selling customers what they know or think they want, or doing work based on delivering what customers know or think they want rather than innovating and suggesting new ideas. ‘Me too’ copycat products and services are amongst the wave riders. But wave riders can get rich and successful fast, if they ride a strong wave and are ahead of (or better than) the competition. It’s common and normal to ride waves, and suits some people just fine. You’re essentially giving people what they want. Which makes sense.

Most people choose to ride waves. It’s generally less creative and less proactive, and more reactive and service based. But you can of course be creative in your approach, and you might need to be, because you’re up against the vast competition of wave riders. Wave riders can become a commodity. They’re in the right place at the right time – just riding the wave.

Riding waves may be easier and appear to be safer and more comfortable (plus, if you’re inclined, you get to criticise others who publicly put something new out there and temporarily fail – all from your position of total safety! Don’t pretend for a second you’ve never done that) but you won’t grow the ‘muscles’, learn anything particularly new above what’s given to you (and the best learning is never given to you – you have to take it), or earn the rewards that creating waves earns you, you may also begin to question your sense of purpose in your work, and at some point – and here’s the big one – the wave you’re riding will run out.

You’ll need to ensure you’re ready to get on another wave and be competent at actually switching and catching new waves if this is your strategy. And take note – as we move through 2015, 2016, 2017…the ocean is becoming more and more choppy!

The good news is that riding the right waves can be a smart way to stay sane whilst helping you create and amplify other waves that eventually land you in a much stronger position.

Or you can be smart about the series of waves you ride and stay sane that way, always knowing and heading towards the next desired wave. If you’re in control of wave riding, you’re okay. If you’re just riding…well…as my old favourite dopey TV fool Russell Coight once said, “I’ve got 2 words for you….BE WARE”.

If you’re just riding a wave with no plan, what will you do when it runs out?

Creating waves

You’re creating waves if you are trying to disrupt or educate your market, or sell them something they don’t know they need. You’re creating waves if you convince an employer to create a job for you. You’re creating waves if you’re trying to change your customer’s direction. Not many people create waves.

Creating waves is hard and high risk. You’re competing against the status quo. It’s for those who are determined, passionate and purposeful about their product, service or ‘art’; those who are immune or blind to risk; those who have tipped odds in their favour; ‘start ups’ (I’m holding a workshop to help start ups sell effectively in London soon, so consider this line cheeky promotion – if you’re interested, contact me on the tab on the right); or creating waves is for those who are truly insane – and regardless, your main challenge is convincing people, and perhaps occasionally convincing yourself, that you are not.

You’ll be unique when creating waves. You’ll strengthen your creativity, persistence and over all ‘muscles’ in this area, and it should be exciting and energising but it can be tiring, and you can sink. Which may make the few pathetic wave riders laugh, or get angry at you on comment forums.

And most people (sheep) won’t be interested because the status quo is safer. Your success will depend on finding the few who are interested, and convincing them first. Then they can create, ride and amplify waves for or with you. Many wave creators fail. But Henry Ford didn’t, neither did Steve Jobs. And those who succeed tend to be well rewarded, and may just change the world…

The good news is anyone can choose to create waves, big or small in whatever they do. You don’t have to change the world, you could change a small group of people. You could make a difference to them. It’s an option. Are you creating waves? Should you be?

Amplifying waves

You’re amplifying waves if you’re going above and beyond what you’re either asked to do or paid to do. Amplifying waves is something valuable that you do purposefully and proactively, because it’s rewarding.

You find a way to continuously add more value to your customers or employer, and, as a result of this, to yourself and your own life.

You go beyond the ‘requested value’ and start introducing ‘suggested value’ to those you serve or work with. You show an active interest in your field, market or customers’ lives, learn more about their challenges and the impact on them as human beings, and seek ways to help them further. And if you stop amplifying waves, your customers, colleagues and ‘bottom line’ seriously miss or find it hard to replace what you do.

You own your learning and performance and self-direct your development when you amplify waves. You know that your value is directly related to the value you can provide, so you invest in yourself.

And you find faster, better, easier, cheaper or more convenient ways to serve your customers and help them implement these. You’re always thinking about that because it’s important to you.

Most ‘successful’ businesses out there and top performing employees didn’t create waves, even though it might appear that they did. They amplified waves. They didn’t get hung up on “it’s all been done before” or “I just need a great idea”. They just executed what’s been done before, more beautifully than ever before.

Or they improved the right things in the right ways, because they learned enough about those things to increase their chances of knowing how to do it better, at least for a well defined market.

The good news is that anyone can amplify waves if they want to. You can. It’s a simple choice to make, but helps significantly if you feel you’re in the right job (although amplifying waves when in the wrong job can soon have you in the right job). But if you don’t purposefully decide to amplify waves then you end up riding waves by default. And what will you do when your wave runs out?

Amplifying waves keeps you on the wave longer, provides you with more options to ride better waves, and strengthens your ‘muscles’ to amplify, create or ride more waves of your choice. And in my experience, wave amplifiers seem a lot happier.

It’s the most sustainable, low risk and frequently rewarding of all three approaches. Keep asking how you can execute on what’s required better, and more beautifully. And then learn how to sell it.

How are you amplifying your wave?

How are your people, teams, colleagues or family amplifying theirs?

And finally, what do you spend most of your time doing? Riding, creating or amplifying waves?

And so, if you’re honest with yourself, what should you be doing next? Go and do it!

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