I went dancing last night for the first time in so many years. I almost didn’t come but my friend Linda said I should go. I’ve been in a funk the last few days and she said, “It would take you out of your funk; trust me.” So I went dragging my rusty dancing feet. At any rate, I enjoyed the evening, dancing like nobody’s watching, so to speak, and it could really well be. Other than my friends, I didn’t know anyone there anyway. And everyone was doing the same thing – dancing without a care in the world.
Watching people on the dance floor, my attention was caught by an old lady, dancing all around the ballroom by the sidelines all by herself. She was just dancing to her own beat. She did that almost the whole night delightfully getting lost in her own music. The scene reminded me of how some people build a career this way. They develop their career by marching to the beat of their own drums. Straying from the herd, they either take the road not taken or take the path that has not been trodden and leave a mark. I know these are all clichés and you just read these phrases on hallmark cards; but some people really do.
When Mayer was finishing her graduate program at Stanford, she had a world of career options in front of her. She could have become a high-paid consultant. She could have become a professor at Carnegie Mellon. Or, she could join a tiny, money-losing startup with a funny-sounding name. Mayer interviewed at the startup and was blown away by how many smart the people were there. They were so smart it almost intimidated her. Because the startup was risky, and because its people were so smart, going there was, for Mayer, the scariest option — which is why she went with it. That startup? Google. Mayer was one of its first 25 employees. Read more…
My daughter, Cara, was intrigued by Mayer’s story and sent me the link. Probably looking for inspiration, this article resonated with her as she goes through a crossroad in her own career. She’s choosing between two paths – account management or sales/business development. Always smart with her choices (can’t blame me for being biased now), she’s leaning towards the latter. She knew that sales is more challenging but comes with high reward. She would get to her financial goals faster that way.
However, comes her manager telling her that account management is better suited for her. He said sales require an aggressive personality, which she doesn’t have. She came home that day distraught, almost in tears. I can just imagine the blow to her ego being told that “You don’t have what it takes to be successful in this field”. I was appalled at this comment for two reasons: (1) aggression does not equal success in sales (2) and a manager cannot make a sweeping statement of what is going to be best for his direct report based on gender or personality. His oversimplified opinion is just questionable at so many levels.
After a couple of days nursing her bruised ego, she started talking to managers in the sales field. True enough, her strategic analysis of her options and her choice of getting to sales were validated. It positions her well to move sideways down the road with not much difficulty. And yes, aggressive personality does not equal success in sales, said one of the field managers. So she would have to go against her manager’s recommendation and “march to the beat of her own drum”. Did I tell you I’m proud of her?