Are you a fan of the weekly singing competition The Voice? If you are, you may have already noticed a distinct parallel to the way things are in the workplace.
If you’re not familiar with the show’s format, four celebrity singer-coaches select the best aspiring singers from a blind audition. The aspiring singers first compete in a sing off against the other artists in the coach’s stable. Finally the best from each coach compete against each other, and viewers vote to award one winner a recording contract.
As I watched an episode last week it struck me how this show holds some good lessons about the workplace that apply to your career.
1. Your boss hires you because she believes you can help her be successful.
On the show, coaches select talent based on their potential to perform well throughout the competition. They are looking for talent who can help them “win the whole thing.”
Your manager hires you because she thinks you have the ability to help to solve her business problems better than any other candidate. She believes you can help her win. So get a sense for what competition she is trying to win and reframe your perspective and performance to help her succeed.
2. The competition doesn’t end when you get the job.
On the show, singers train together with the coach, and then compete against one another to get to the next level. One gets eliminated, one goes on. To make it to the end of the show, you’ve got to compete hard in every round.
Whether it’s getting the promotion or being assigned to a plum project, you are always competing for what comes next in your career. You competed to get the job, but once you have it, you must compete in the job. Look around and see how you’re positioning yourself to be the talent of choice in the next competition.
3. Mentoring is an essential part of your professional development process.
On the show, coaches groom their artists, giving insight into their performance and sharing techniques for improvement. Guest mentors assist in developing the rookie artist for competition. Both have an encouraging, supportive and personal connection with the artists.
It’s been well-documented that having a strong mentor relationship is one of the keys to success, especially for young professionals. If you don’t have a mentor, find one. Then, build a relationship that helps you leverage the insight, wisdom and encouragement of an experienced guide who can support your career journey.
4. It’s about who you are, as much as it is about what you know.
On a recent show, two competing singers were quite different in personality. One was outgoing, and the other more reserved. The coach commented that the singer’s presence was as much a part of the evaluation as her talent. The audience is buying who you are, he said, as much as they are buying how you sing.
You’ve probably heard of personal branding. That’s the part about who you are. How people perceive you is as essential to your career as what you actually do. Take a look at how your personal brand identifies you. Does it attract the caliber of mentors, colleagues and opportunities that you desire? If not, take a look at what you can do to shore up your professional presence and get the raving fans you deserve.
5. You’re good. Someone else may be just a little bit better.
It’s usually a tough call to eliminate a singer but the coach has to pick the one with the best chance of going all the way. The coach anguishes over the choice between two strong performers. They give very specific feedback so the eliminated singer understands why they lost and how to improve. Sometimes it’s a very slight, nearly imperceptible edge that wins.
Managers make tough calls about good talent all the time, whether it’s deciding who gets the special assignment, or the salary increases. You’re good; someone else may just have a slight advantage that makes him the more perfect choice for a role. A good manager will help you understand why you fell short. If you don’t win a particular competition, ask for specific feedback that will make you better in the next round.
And of course there’s one BIG difference between your career and The Voice. You don’t have to learn your career lessons on national TV with a couple million people watching!
Lea McLeod did some serious time in big corporations. Now she’s sharing what she learned with young professionals and college grads. She figures if you understand the fundamentals of working in organizations – of any kind – you’ll be better prepared to get the job you want, and have more fun doing it. She blogs at Degrees of Transition. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and at email@example.com.