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Raise the Bar on your Career

by Gordon Miller

This is a hard one for a lot of us. Seems like we always want to be somebody special, famous, larger-than-life, a move star, rock star, or sports star. The truth is that we all have the ability to be somebody greater than who we are today. For twenty-five years I thought of myself as a sales manager or general manager type. It didnít occur to me that I could be anything else. Why should it? I had talent for that kind of work, and enjoyed success in those arenas. But once I became comfortable with the idea that I didnít have to do sales, in fact, I could branch out into something totally different and exciting, the barrier that I had set up began tumbling down. (Take note: the barriers were those I had set up.) No, I didnít become a rock star (because I canít sing and I quit taking piano lessons when I was seven), or a basketball star (Iíd need a tall ladder to be able to dunk), but I did become an author and a career coach. And Iíve never been happier.

Raise the bar. Decide that youíre going to be somebody, do something different, engage life in a different way, expect more of yourself. You donít have to accept mediocrity. A great line in Richard Bachís Illusions says, ďArgue for your limitations and theyíre yours.Ē You donít have to be a checker in a grocer store (unless you want to be ---and thatís fine, too.) Aim high---you probably wonít become a bank president next week, but if you raise that bar a bit at a time, youíll be surprised at how high you can jump.

I tell my clients to think two levels ahead. If youíre trying to move your career forward, think not only about next week, but next year as well. Imagine youíre playing a chess game. You only move one piece at a time, but if youíre a good chess player, youíre thinking at least two moves ahead, and theyíre all contingent on what your opponent does. Knight to bishop four may work unlessÖunlessÖ Be prepared with a countermove. If you know the opposition (the business world) and understand the current job market, youíre prepared to make some killer moves.

Invest in self-training. If your excuse is lack of time or money, all I can say is, get the money and find the time. Itís your career and your life. If not now, when? Some training will cost money, but thereís a lot of it on the Internet thatís pretty inexpensive. Check out, type in on-line training, to see what I mean. Donít have a computer or Internet access? Go down to the local library and use theirs. Take classes. Buy books (lots of used ones out there). If youíre sitting still, youíre actually going backward.

What are you best at? Though youíve got to be flexible and adaptable, you want to identify your real core competency. Red Adair (is he still around ?) used to put out oil field fires, and thatís what he became known for. He could be a concert violinist for all I know; what heís become known as is a guy who can put out oil field fires better than anyone else. Period. What can you do?

Finally, be able to work well with others. If you look at people who have been successful, youíll find that most of them know how to go along to get along. If youíre ever going to get a GSD (Get Stuff Done) degree, working well with others is an absolute prerequisite. Youíll find out (if you havenít already) that you sometimes need help to get stuff done. Since the best somebody to be is a somebody who can get stuff done, you darn well better know how to ask for, and offer, help. I donít care if you drive a trash truck, paint houses, or youíre the chairman of the board, if you donít learn to work well with others, youíll never have the kind of success you deserve.

Youíre not limited by your past experience, nor limited by your degree or lack of it; being somebody is a decision. Your decision. Take the time and energy to explore the possibilities.

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Gordon Miller is a career coach, speaker, and the author of The Career Coach: Winning Strategies for Getting Ahead in Today's Job Market (Doubleday). Gordon is also the author and speaker on the Video, Youíre Hired! 5 New Ways to Get a Great Job in a Down Economy, which can be found at He can be reached at

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