When you first start your business career, your level of responsibility may not be at the same level as when you left the military. This is a short term issue until you learn the operation, customers, products or services. While you are learning and ramping up your responsibilities, find as many opportunities as you possibly can to contribute. In other words, add value wherever you can. Those above you, your peers, and subordinates, will notice that you want to make a difference and appreciate your effort. You will also feel much better about learning AND making a contribution.
From day one, you will be building your reputation by the little things you do. Unfortunately, some JMOs make the mistake of acting as if they are above doing the little things and not willing to find even the smallest opportunities to add value and make a difference. For example, one of our manufacturing clients has a program to train the Cameron-Brooks candidate to be a future Plant Manager or Plant Superintendent. The first year involves working on the production line along with the other production associates. Not until the person learns all facets of manufacturing on every shift is he or she then promoted to Production Team Leader, the next major step to becoming a Plant Manager or Superintendent. Every development candidate, JMO or non-JMO, goes through this process with the company. The company leadership and production associates value a leader who knows all facets of production and has a great attitude about working on the production floor. The approach the JMO takes to this assignment to learn and add value, sets the path for their future career in the company which could last 20 to 30 years. An attitude of willingness to learn all facets and contribute, led 2 of our alum to become Plant Managers and part owners of a company, and 3 more to now be in the position of Plant Superintendents. All will tell you that the first year was difficult, but their attitude and desire to contribute made the difference.
I have my own personal experience at Cameron-Brooks. During my 4 year military career, I led a platoon of 20 soldiers, was an armor company executive officer and an assistant operations officers for an armor battalion. I did very well, and had a lot of responsibility. Then I came to Cameron-Brooks and spent my first 11 months working in Rene Brooks’ office. Rene is the President and CEO of our company. I took messages for her, made copies, sent faxes, managed her e-mail and listened to her conversations with clients. This was hard for me! However, I knew I was building the foundation for my future and everyone at Cameron-Brooks was watching my attitude. Was I a team member and willing to learn and do what the company needed at that time? I didn’t need to answer verbally; I let my actions do the talking and added value where I could. Today, I lead a team, work with client companies, help recruit candidates, manage our Development and Preparation Program® and lead marketing initiatives. I am a key leader for Cameron-Brooks with lots of responsibility that directly impacts our performance. I am able to do this because of what I did and learned in my first year.
To be fair, these are both extreme examples and not the norm. I use them to illustrate the point that your first year in business is critical to building your reputation. You must bring with you an attitude to contribute in any way possible, along with a willingness to learn. I promise you this, responsibility will come when you earn it, and it will come fast and furious when it does. The upside in business is that when your responsibility increases, so does your compensation.
Stay tuned for Lesson 3.