A few slices of tomato and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and yeast

Last week we talked about how potential is a bit like “raw ingredients”. About how potential is the ‘latent qualities’ you’ve got that fit the ‘latent qualities’ a business might need. The example we talked about was how for a data analyst position you might not have used SQL querying before but the ‘latent qualities’ needed to do the role really well might be ‘attention to detail’, patience, a “head for numbers”, reliability and “good at writing”.

I’ll be totally straight with you. I was hungry when I wrote the last blog, I focussed on cooking analogies more than I would have if I hadn’t been in quite such a state. Having said that, I’m kind of glad I did because I think the analogy both works and can go a step further.

So welcome, everyone, to the first ever second half of an Arch Graduates blog of two parts that isn’t strictly speaking a two part blog.

Let’s just start…

An example. Imagine for a second that you’re starting a new job. Let’s imagine that you’re starting a job as a 'partnership and affiliate associate'. Your role involves talking to your customers, making sure your product is rolled out perfectly, that your customers are happy, using the product in the right way and getting the value from it that they want. The ‘latent qualities’ needed are all around communication, organisation, completion, persistence and likeability. The role would be sitting between your customers and your product team and translating from one to the other and turning problems into opportunities for your affiliates to add value to your customers etc etc etc.

Right, you start this role (it’s your first) and you do well, all these raw ingredients have meant that you’re generally staying on top of things, feedback has been pretty good and the people you’re working with all think you’ve got “what it takes” to be “a real superstar”.

But here we are talking about potential again right? So how do you stop having the raw ingredients and start to become more of a fully formed dish? How do you go from having “what it takes” to be “doing whatever it is that I had to have what it takes to get me to be able to be doing this thing that I had what it takes to do”. Clear?

Well, let’s go back to the analogy…. You need a chef.

If you give me flour, water, olive oil, salt, tomatoes, basil, yeast and mozzarella you’d probably end up eating a tomato and mozzarella salad. If you give the best pizza chef in the world the same 8 ingredients she/he’ll make you the best pizza you’ve ever eaten, or anyone else as for that matter.

The ingredients you give us both are identical, the outcome is completely different. The difference, who is handling the ingredients.

I think one of the most important aspects of building a successful career (especially early on) is having someone who knows more about what you need than you do.

So who’s your chef? Can you name them? Do they know they’re your chef? Do they know what you want from your career? Do they realise the importance of the role they play in your life? How often do you get to meet them? All questions to be thinking about.

This person might be your manager, they might be your manager’s manager. They might be a mentor, it doesn’t really matter, the key is that they know you and that they know the world you work in.

When you’re starting out in your career you don’t really know very much about what you’re capable of, where your career will go, where you want it to go, how to get there, what you don’t know, what you should be learning, who you should be spending time with etc etc. You need a chef who will help bring all your raw ingredients together and help turn you into an amazing dish, a dish that is worth more than the sum of its parts.

So, find one! Once you have you should tell them that what you want from your career, tell them how keen you are to progress and ask them if they’ll keep an eye on you and help to guide you through the early years of your career.

I totally believe that being upfront and explicit with people about things like this is what makes the difference between an award winning pizza and a few slices of tomato and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and yeast.

Until next week.