Remember You are Always On
Have you ever heard the expression that someone is always "on'? That comes from the showbiz reference to the fact that the person mentioned always acts as if they are on stage, or before the cameras. The inference is that they are acting for effect and not being "real."
Well, I submit that in today's competitive world it is not such a bad thing to be "on." I thought about this after hearing how several friends landed long-awaited jobs in nontraditional ways. One is a program manager for a government initiative geared towards high school drop outs. The other is now the CEO of a hospital.
Both had been unemployed, then under employed, then unhappily employed in unfulfilling jobs outside their specialties. In the case of the CEO she met a stranger on the beach and struck up a conversation about what she did but pointed out her passion was really healthcare operations. He was friendly, yet professional and he told her he was the president of a healthcare company, and was in town to visit the company's local hospital which was in a state of flux.
He gave her his business card and asked her to call him (only a hard core executive goes to the beach with business cards!). Anyway, after a couple of interviews she got the job to be the CEO with the task of turning around a flailing hospital. This is her ideal job.
She did not have to leave town or sell her house or uproot her family. The executive told her he was fascinated by her stories, her resilience in creating jobs along the way, and her obvious passion for healthcare. Although they met casually (and she initially had no idea what he did for a living) she was friendly, but professional and forceful.
My other friend got his job in a similar way. He met someone at a party who networked with him and asked him to call a colleague in government, who then referred him to someone in the mayor's office. To make a long story short, he got a the job of program manager two months later after five intense interviews.
Both examples point to the power of networking but, more significantly, to the importance of being professional and exuding your brand even in social situations. In neither case were my friends being fake or in offensive sales mode, but they were acting professionally enough -and had their elevator speech refined and smooth enough- to attract attention that later landed them their dream jobs.
So being "on" in this context does not mean being fake, stiff or in constant sales mode. It does mean being kind, courteous, and professional. It means being clear on how you can add value to an organization that would be lucky to land you. It does mean having a finely honed elevator speech that sounds sincere, passionate and natural.
It pays to be "on" because you never know who is in the audience.