This week I am featuring a letter/guest blog from Tonjua “TJ” Jones. What impressed me most about TJ’s entry is that he has experienced the epiphany I have referred to about corporate America at a relatively young age– he is in his 20′s. For many of us, the realization doesn’t happen for decades (if ever). TJ “gets it”. As you read his entry, reflect on yourself and your own experiences. Despite possibly not agreeing with everything TJ speaks to, open your mind wide enough to recognize the long-term reality of working for someone else. You should only be doing this for one reason and one reason only— to get the Paid Training necessary to starting your own company.
By TJ Jones:
As you reflect upon the commentary below, I ask that you do the following:
- Do not be realistic
- Pay attention to your mood
- Think about your purpose
- Reflect on your professional brand
- Acknowledge your fears
A New Life: The day after I finished my Masters Degree coursework I began an exciting sales opportunity with a fortune 500 company; I felt the position validated my education and the compensation highlighted my value in Corporate America. I was able to quickly make an impact and subsequently I was promoted within my first year. At 24 I bought my first house, traveled frequently, and began building my savings account. My family was impressed with my independence and consistently bragged on my “career.”
As a professional sales representative in the health care sector, I am continuously evaluated on specific metrics: quarterly sales results, product knowledge, territory penetration, and collaboration with counterparts to accomplish company goals. Performance is acknowledged with bonuses, promotions, and recognition. In this regard, I report to a district sales manager who is responsible for my results; my role is to compliantly grow the business for the products I market.
In my three years in the pharmaceutical industry I have learned a great deal about adaptability, credibility, and responsibility. In the recap above, I failed to mention:
- 5 new sales managers (I have reported to)
- 4 separate moves (loading up all my worldly possessions)
- 3 states that I have lived in (Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona)
- 2 re-alignments (which included company layoffs)
While the “New Life” was certainly challenging and engaging, it forced me to quickly evaluate both my short- and long-term goals and aspirations.
A New Perspective: One day while sitting in my home office, the most productive and positive-energy filled room in my house, I began reflecting on the things that were important to me. Immediately I thought of my family and friends, my health, the money I didn’t have, and the communities which I served. I backed away from my L-shaped desk and sat down on the couch, realizing the two computers juxtaposed to one another represented two different worlds.
The world of my Lenovo ThinkPad X220 seemed to represent stability and structure, but at the same time incorporated volatility and finite opportunities associated with the pharmaceutical industry. The world of my Hewlett Packard G42 embodied freedom and creativity while offering infinite opportunities associated with entrepreneurship. At that moment BrandME LLC, a professional development company that helps individuals and organizations represent themselves as unique and dynamic brands, was born.
One at a time I live in both worlds, daily. Thus, my full-time “job” represents paid training for my career objectives and interests; my sales position allows me to build my business knowledge and savvy so I can implement successful practices into my own consulting business. Here are the most important lessons I have learned:
1) Don’t straddle the fence: commit fully to one thing at a time and learn as much as you can for as long as you can or want to; if you are on the clock for your employer work smart to capitalize on the time you have to receive compensation for your training.
2) It’s just a job: an employer can give you a job but it is up to you to make a career that capitalizes on your skills and abilities. From this vantage point, one should work a “job” that better equips them to excel in accomplishing long-term career objectives.
3) Stop “Hoping” and quit “Trying”: I have found “try” and “hope” to be the most overused words when it comes to things one can control through action. Ultimately, in business and in life, “do” what you must and “prepare” for the desired outcomes.
4) Don’t Compete… Excel: competition involves comparison; excellence becomes an internal battle that effectively exploits a competitive advantage. As an employee or entrepreneur it is important to identify the areas where you are exemplary and operate in this space while developing other competencies.
5) Don’t Worry About Price: whether you work for an employer or own your business, your key focus is to bring value.
6) Fear is your Compass: allow your mind to work in a manner that propels you towards your future desired state. If there is something that you fear and it is holding you from your potential, attack this fear head on with the end result in mind.
Many have paid money to demonstrate an ability to learn and process information in the academic setting. Once we earn a degree or two, we go to work for an employer that quantifies our value through offering us an annual salary. As we grow into our roles, we adapt our thinking and our mindset for three main reasons: a. there are limited opportunities as we climb the corporate ladder; b. there is not enough money to warrant patiently waiting the climb; c. there is no guarantee we will even be on the ladder! Embracing a job generally entails embracing vulnerability.
Employees report to a manager and become an interchangeable part. Entrepreneurs establish a system that shares products and services to interested clients; they hire employees (interchangeable parts) and report to as many customers or clients as they choose to. By now you should understand why I asked you not to be realistic, as technology affords us the ability to impact and influence the masses. If you cannot guarantee that your job will always be available or that you will even want it in the future, what alternatives are you seeking that will allow you to be a long-term solution? What do you want your compensation to look like in the future? What’s your purpose? Again, I am not asking what you do. But really, how do you bring unique value to others?
Before you sell, promote, or represent anything, you must first sell, promote, and represent yourself. Why wait? The time for you to explore your passions and cash in on your paid training is now.
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Thank you, John Cerasani
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