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When you conduct self-assessments or participate in annual reviews, what do you tend to focus on? Is the majority of your time spent identifying your strengths or your weaknesses? I recently participated in a leadership training focused on identify and activating strengths. It was based largely on the thoughts from Marcus Buckingham, the potential-focused author of several books including First, Break All the Rules and Now, Go Put Your Strengths to Work.
At the end of the two-hour session, I had a better understanding of my strengths, but there were still a few outstanding questions. Namely, how people can use their strengths to shift their lives towards happiness on a professional level?
The fact is that while strengths show what we are good at, passions tend to be the things that we act on and often lead to success. To better understand how this can work professionally, I spoke to J. Russell Fugett, CEO of Good Word Reputation Digital Media (GoodWRD) about his transition from higher education to a full service digital communications firm with deep experience in the sports arena. Here are steps he took to guarantee a successful transition:
Develop your passion. For some, passions develop over time, but sports always played a role in Fugett’s life. His father, Jean, was a tight end in the NFL, and he grew up with a love for and understanding of the sports business. The first move from hobby towards career occurred when he began following the action on the field and off.
“I spent a lot of time reading up on news on an industry level. I wanted to understand why certain deals were taking place and who the major players were behind each one,” shared Fugett. “After a short amount of time, I was able to credibly speak about issues surrounding the NFL and Wi-Fi in stadiums and environment leading up to Manchester United being listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).”
Show up at every event. Building credibility is a requirement for any major career shift. In addition to knowing the issues, you need to know the people in the field — and they need to know you. Fugett made a concerted effort to attend industry event to meet people already in the field and test his assumptions about which direction the sector was moving.
“The events I attended early on in my transition allowed me to interact with people at all levels and get their thoughts on industry innovation,” he noted. “I still find these valuable today. I can share my take and get a pulse on current trends in conversation among panelists and attendees.”
Identify mentors and sponsors. One thing that remained present in my conversation with Fugett was the level of serendipity that can exist in your process. He noted that with the way professional roles are shifting the average person could expect to have four to five careers.
From his perspective, one key part of his success was having talented mentors in his current field and on the periphery. He often was able to pinpoint potential mentors at the events he attended, and he was both persistent and consistent with follow-up.
Not every person he reached out to became one of his mentors (providing advice); some were equally valuable in another role— sponsors. This group of people had less time for one on one interaction, but he built a reputation as a credible player in the industry so they regularly speak on his behalf within their networks and send opportunities to GoodWRD.
If a career transition is on your horizon, invest the time necessary to develop your passion, become knowledge about issues related to your desired industry and connect with people who can support you by providing ideas and opportunities. With passion, knowledge and relationships, you cannot lose.
James S. Walker (@jaywalk1 ) is a global digital manager on the Nature Conservancy’s international digital marketing team. Intrigued by how social and cultural insights connect people on a global level, Walker has completed long-term project assignments in China and Mongolia, and chronicles his thoughts on the industry via his blog, PR Prescriptions, and Website, Socially Diverse.