This is only a snippet of a full post about stepping down from my position at my company. You can read the whole thing over at Brazen Careerist. It’s been a hell of a ride you guys!
At the end of this month, I’m stepping down as Community Manager for Brazen Careerist. As a founder and a stockholder I’ll always be involved in the company, but career-wise I’m moving on.
I spent most my life establishing relationships with people who made me feel safe. In high school I spiked up my hair and wore nothing but tee-shirts from punk-rock bands you have never heard of. At the time I thought I was making a statement, but really I was just making it easier to know who my friends were.
In college, I joined a fraternity with Ryan Healy, my freshmen-year roommate at the time. I hung out with the same people for all four years—again, it was all about feeling safe. Some of them remain my closest friends. Others I will never talk to again because we were never really friends to begin with.
In a couple weeks, I’m presenting at the 2010 Career Summit. My session is all about taking control of what you’re doing online, unlearning bad habits and being smarter with your time. It’s something I’ve struggled with a lot as a Community Manager and I’m hoping that I can help people avoid some of the core mistakes that I’ve made.
Social media is great, but there are also a lot of things that social media is not good for. Here are are few that I have learned over the years:
Plenty of talented individuals have made a small fortune from blogging, but most of us aren’t them. Posts that talk about how easy it is to set up a blog (like this one) and make lots of passive income are stupid. You should ignore them. It’s not that easy.
Passive income is a joke. Ramit Sethi compares passive-income seekers to people with bad taste. They’re easy to pick out in a crowd. I think this is particularly true for bloggers seeking passive income. Their blogs remind me of used-car lots.
And WTF is passive income anyway? Selling eBooks? Advertising? Webinars? Most of the people who are doing this well (Chris Guillebeau is a great example) have made managing their online presence a big part of their life in order to make it work.
The better way to get value out of your blog is to focus on selling your offline skills because that’s where most of us have the best chance of making lots of money anyways. I never made a dime off of my blog, but I did start a company with two other brilliant people because of blogging.
Twitter worked well for Jamie because she came up with a creative way to showcase her talent. And Twitter is a great way to showcase your talent to a lot of strangers at once. The problem is that most people who use Twitter aren’t being creative like that..
Unless you’re tweeting for recreational reasons, tweeting seems worthless without something else compelling to share with people. Not to mention the fact that 71 percent of tweets are ignored anyway. Nobody gives a damn about what you have to say in 140 characters or less unless they know that you’re interesting beyond your tweets.
We’ve been programmed to believe that more equals better, but this is wrong. What I’m discovering is that the most talented people are being exclusive about who they network with. There are only a handful of people out there who can significantly help you out anyway. So this seems smart.
Being stingy about the amount of time that you spend online is a good thing because while you’re ogling down your Google reader for hours on end top performers are out there getting all of the real work done. A good rule of thumb is that top performers spend about 15 percent of their time online and 85 percent of their time doing behind-the-scenes stuff. I read this on Ryan Rancatore’s blog.
This makes a lot of sense to me because if I ever have a day where I just want to idly surf the web from the comfort of my own bed it doesn’t take long for me to get an email from my teammates in DC. It’s easy to identify who is doing real work versus who is just screwing around all day.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to impress my girlfriend’s parents. I want them to like me. I know for a fact that they didn’t like her last boyfriend and I feel like setting myself apart from this dude is really important. So last weekend we offered to watch their horse farm while they went to visit their other daughter.
No horses died (phew!) but I had a little accident with a tractor. While mowing the lawn I ran it into one of their barns and tore down a couple of sheets of siding in the process. This isn’t a cheap barn either. Not the kind that you can hammer a couple new pieces of plywood to at least. So I started to panic.
I’ve made a business out of helping people, I mean, that’s basically what a Community Manager does. However, mistakes of the “whoops my link doesn’t work” variety are the kind that I deal with them every day. Mistakes like “gee, I totally mangled your dream barn” aren’t really my forte.
My girlfriend is a saint. She offered to tell her parents about the barn siding for me. I was really close to letting her do that because I’ve seen her mom pissed off but when she got on the phone I found myself reaching for it.
At my first post-college job I made the mistake of letting someone else deliver a mistake to my boss. Nothing makes you look less capable than having somebody else communicate your own failures.
Just look at all the celebrities and politicians that have “people” answer for their mistakes and it just ends up blowing up more.
After I delivered the bad news about the barn I immediately offered to pay for the damages and drive an hour outside of Madison to do the repairs myself. I’m still waiting on the bill with fingers crossed that it doesn’t leave me drinking Busch Light for the next month, but the fact that I took ownership over the solution kept me from crippling myself with anxiety.
The great thing about making mistakes is that you’re offered a new opportunity to prove yourself by fixing the mistake. Because let’s face it, people fuck up every day at work and in their personal lives. The only thing that separates the winners from the losers is whether or not you try to fix the problem or sit around whining about it.
I bought brunch. I also said thanks for everything that they do for me. And I think that I’m allowed to mow the lawn again which is something that I was really worried about. I love to mow lawns and their lawn is the Mecca for landscapers.
It all comes back to being accountable and not being a whiner. There’s a little bit of a whiner in all of us though (some of us more than others). For a moment we all question whether or not we can’t point the blame somewhere else and avoid catastrophe, but I’m starting to realize that the real catastrophe is not being able to handle that one moment when everyone finds out that there is a problem…. and yes, you are the one behind it.
Learning to deal with failure is one of the hardest things that young pros have to learn. If it’s any consolation, they make for some really great stories after they’re over.
I’m lucky to be a Community Manager. It affords me with a wealth of opportunities to connect with motivated, interesting people. About a month ago it provided me with an opportunity to connect with Shane Mac—driven entrepreneur, unstoppable content creator and all around righteous dude.
It’s hard not to be inspired by someone like Shane because he has a new idea to share with me every time we chat. I really liked his idea for Ask Summit and was happy that he asked me to be a part of it. I’ll let Shane and his partner in crime, Andrew Swenson, explain what Ask Summit actually is, but I wanted to share my interview for the project. I answered the question: What do you say to people who tell you that they hate their job.
What really bugs me about people who say that they hate their job is that they take no accountability for making their situation any better. You gotta take charge of your own destiny to make things happen. I talk about this below with Shane …
What do you say when people tell you that they hate their jobs? Any sympathy for their strife? Let me know what you think …
Penelope Trunk told me that she couldn’t be my mentor. “You’re too difficult,” was what she said. At the time I didn’t care because I thought that I hated her. Emotions run high in early-stage start ups. Ours was no exception.
Over time I realized that I didn’t really hate Penelope. What I really hated was my lack of confidence when becoming self employed. Once I figured that out, we became friends.
A friend. Not a mentor. I have learned plenty about myself just from being around her, but I don’t want to be like her. I have a lot of people like this in my life.
Trial and error is my mantra. I’ve always learned things the hard way. It makes sense that I would ally myself with people I don’t typically agree with. Things are more interesting that way, and you learn more too.
When is the last time that you learned anything about yourself without conflict? The biggest lesson that I learned in 2009 was to push back when people are expecting too much out of me. I learned to set expectations for people, and if they didn’t like it, tough luck. I didn’t learn how to do this through someone I wanted to be like, I learned it through people who are nothing like me at all.
In essence, the big epiphany moments, the light bulbs, every “a-ha” was something that I came to when I stepped closer towards people I didn’t want to be like and further from people who made me feel comfortable. Chaos has been my muse, and so far she’s treated me quite well.
Life would be boring without the people that make us tick. They force us to think in different ways because we want to debate their ideas. Some days we win, others we lose. In the end, we all learn something.
I’ve never had a mentor in the traditional sense, and I think that maybe I don’t need one. I’m not the type of person who needs people to hold in high regard. I just need people who push me. And usually the best person to do that is someone who is not very much like me at all.