I have incredible readers, making incredible leaps forward in their incredible careers, and I feel fortunate to play a small part…
I just had another long-time reader reach out to me today.
He’d asked previously about succeeding as a freelancer. But because he was young and hungry, and very flexible in his living situation (i.e. currently living at home with his parents, single, etc.), I recommended he pursue a full-time gig inside an entrepreneurial and preferably direct marketing oriented business.
This is exactly what I did back in 2005 when I was getting my start in marketing, business, and copywriting.
And until very early 2010, I worked there, building a great track record plus a whole pile of skills that continue to serve me to this day.
(This is also, in part, why I recommend readers pursue Jake Hoffberg’s short-form copywriting opportunity at the Agora divisions, if they’re interested in breaking into financial copywriting.)
… So this guy sends me a message today. Long story short, he got an incredible offer. Internationally-famous author. Successful company. Great marketer. And he’s been offered a gig to work there full-time, to help them build their online marketing campaigns. (Getting daily in-the-trenches experience in the kind of work he wants to do for clients.)
He was a young freelancer working to get his stuff together, living in his parents’ basement. And now he’s being offered a regular paycheck AND an in-the-trenches education in effective marketing.
So he asked me about shifting his mindset. From freelancer to employee. How to succeed in this new role.
I riffed off a few ideas, but decided to turn them into an article about intrapreneurship. That is, being entrepreneurial, but from inside of a bigger business.
I’ve done this at times. I have many friends who used this as a springboard for success as a consultant, freelancer, or entrepreneur. It’s a proven model.
So, without any further ado… I’ll dive into seven powerful ideas to help you build cred plus skills as an intrapreneur.
If you’re considering the path, perhaps it will help you dive in. If you haven’t considered it, perhaps it will make you do so. Or, if you’re running a business and might want intrapreneurs working under you, this could serve as a guide to help everyone get the most out of the situation.
- Figure out how to get results.
This is especially true in marketing, selling, and business development roles.
Every day, you should be working on how to more effectively get more customers, doing business with your employer, more often.
Ultimately, this is your job.
It’s what you’re being hired to do.
And if you can’t do it consistently, over time, with improving performance, not a lot else will matter.
And if your job isn’t growing the business (although that’s kinda what intrapreneurship is about), find out what your job is.
— What will be true when you are successful at your job?
— What behaviors would represent failure on your part?
Aim for the former, avoid the latter, and make that your main goal.
- Figure out how to make your boss look good.
A sure way to get yourself in trouble is to make your boss look bad, to whomever they report to. (And they can report to all sorts of people, including executives above them, the board, shareholders, customers, their spouse, etc., depending on the business structure and stakeholders involved. Oh, and don’t forget their own self perception.)
Alternately, the more you make your boss look good and feel good about themselves and the results their team is getting, the better off you’ll be.
Make yourself a source of good feelings for your boss, and it will be an X-factor to help you get ahead versus others of similar abilities.
Plus, they’ll give you opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise.
- Figure out how to make everyone else look good.
Don’t just brown-nose your boss because they can do things for you today. Treat everyone well. Give them ample credit for their contributions, and forgive their mistakes.
It’d be trite to say that a team is only as strong as its weakest link, so I won’t say that.
But the more you strengthen your team, the better everyone will do.
Be a source of encouragement, of connections, of good feelings.
And this applies for supervisors in other departments, people on your team and elsewhere, and even shipping clerks and the office janitor.
Treat EVERYONE in the best way you would like to be treated, if your roles were reversed.
Brian Kurtz has a concept called 100-0. Give 100%, expect 0%. Be nice without expectation. I’ve never, ever had this approach come back to bite me.
(People can only take advantage of your niceness if you are expecting something in return.)
- Don’t be an ass.
There are all kinds of ways to take this.
And this does not preclude things like office humor.
The one time I snuck onto the computer of a computer illiterate coworker… Took a screenshot, and set it to the background… Then dragged all the real icons into a folder… So that it looked like his background but it was just a picture and was not functional.
Or the time I slowed down that same coworker’s mouse a little bit every day, until he had to practically roll his mouse across the room to get it to move across the screen.
Or the time that coworker and I teamed up with others to fill another coworker’s cubicle TO THE BRIM with crumpled newspapers, while he was out camping with his family.
All of those could be mean spirited. But the difference is that once you’ve had the laughs, you help get things back in order.
Don’t step on fingers. Don’t treat people poorly. Don’t trash people behind their backs.
Also, don’t just give people a “yes” when they need a “no.” Speak truly and honestly, kindly, and with ethics.
- Always try to perform above your pay grade.
A lot of people have the attitude that they’ll only do the job they’re paid to do. That’s a sure guarantee you’ll always only have that job, or one below it.
If you’re always aiming above your pay grade with your value, contributions, and performance, it’ll be easier to justify pay increases in the future.
Yes, sometimes you’ll get paid less than you’re worth — but from the company’s perspective, that means you’re someone worth keeping around because you over-deliver.
Work your butt off. Then, work a little harder.
Solve problems nobody asked you solve, as long as they’re problems that need to be solved.
Be a leader, and step up when nobody else will.
Which leads us directly to…
- Respect boundaries.
There ARE situations in an organization where you need to be careful with the above advice.
For example, you need to be mindful about how you choose to pursue opportunities that overlap with others’ responsibilities. It’s not that you shouldn’t pursue these opportunities — these can be great chances at career advancement. But you have to be mindful of how you doing someone else’s job is going to be perceived, and then make a conscious decision about your course of action.
There are all kinds of professional boundaries that exist in a workplace that may feel unfamiliar to folks used to working on their own, or who are just getting started.
You don’t have to look too far for examples of grotesque behavior in the workplace, that could have a role in other contexts (consenting relationships, perhaps certain social settings, etc.). Keep your professional life professional, and your private life private.
Also, there are certain boundaries dealing with relationships, privacy, and other roles that should be respected, if you want respect in your career. Even something as simple as using my reader’s name above, and the company offering him the job. I know them. I could ignore the boundary and use them, and this entire story would look better for ME. But I choose not to use them because there’s a boundary there that I’m not going to be the one to cross.
- Move fast and fail forward.
There’s a story from the earlier years of Facebook, before they were a public company.
A young intern had an idea to make Facebook better. They wanted to test it out.
One of the main principles in the building of Facebook was “move fast and break things,” so this intern gave their idea a shot.
It crashed Facebook. All of it. For an hour.
Emergency mode. The first goal was to restore service. Then, to get to the bottom of it.
They figured out it was something about this intern’s idea that had crashed the site.
Other companies may have showed that intern the door, before their internship was up.
Zuckerberg offered them a full-time job.
In most entrepreneurial, direct marketing oriented companies, failure is embraced as a learning opportunity. You want to contain the damage, and run controlled test with minimized risk. (e.g., In paid advertising, you may dedicate 15% of your daily budget to test campaigns where failure is encouraged in the pursuit of finding new opportunities.)
With a plan in place to learn through controlled failure, you can move faster, find out more about what does and doesn’t work, and come out ahead in the long run.
Final thought: carpe diem!
Life offers abundant opportunities for those who look. Sometimes, they’re not what you were looking for. But if you can spot them, they can be a chance at taking a big leap forward. IF — and that’s a BIG IF — you can seize them and choose the responsibility of making the most of them.
That’s what my reader has in front of him. I’m glad to hear he’s so excited, and going for it.
Now: what opportunity is presenting itself to YOU right now?
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,