If you wake up everyday thinking you are going to be discovered, you’re not.

Dependencies. Sometimes your career progression, and many other things in your life, can be about understanding the dependencies. As I coach and mentor young talent, I find that the toolkit and brand, as well as the lack of focus on the dependencies, are some of the biggest obstacles to career progression. In some cases, even starting the first chapter. A couple of the killers:

  • Short or empty toolbox. You can’t build anything without tools.
  • Strive for perfection kills flexibility, agility, opportunity. It’s said that the need for perfection is the enemy of good enough.
  • Trade short term opportunity for long term runway. The career pyramid isn’t narrow and skinny, its broad, wide and strong.

Its really easy to get caught up in the trap. We to often start where we are and work forward with what we have. I’m a firm believer in this old adage but there are some other very important things you must do before you get started either developing your plan/strategy or working towards the goal.

What Comes First Matters!


The caveat. Don’t ever hide behind planning or perfection before dipping a toe in the water and having a bias toward action. Your bias toward career action and planning should encompass these 5 concepts…..

1. If you wake up everyday thinking you are going to be discovered, you’re not.

Budget time. Its an investment and not a part time job. Your career requires ALL of your attention. Look, we all strive for a healthy work/life balance but while you are playing and sleeping someone is prepping to take your right or left side chair. Budget your time across rest, exercise, and work wisely.

2. Make an assumption that everything you see is intentional.

Become a better student. I work with people everyday to spend every waking moment as a student. They watch every movement, every blink, hand gesture, smile, etc. They also listen and I mean intently. Vocabulary, inflection, volume, etc. They are students. The best I’ve seen is a friend that is a 5, 6, and 11 anchor in a top ten market. Her ‘cool’ persona is not nature, its nurtured and very intentional. She is setting herself up for her next chapter very very intentionally. If you don’t have a personal branding strategy, we need to talk.

3. There is a fork in the road ahead!

You better identify multiple paths and contingencies. Your employer could be bought, could acquire a competitor, or even go completely out of the business/market. Are your skills transferable? Can you go from a TV Host or digital content creator or YouTuber to a corporate communications director? The roles center around storytelling, can you make that jump or is the gap too wide?

4. A career not a sprint, its more like a marathon that is 35 sprints, one after the other.

A career is made up of many many chapters. I always get a chuckle when a 32 year old professional starts our coaching session with defeat, like their dream is over. Ha! At 32 years old you are less than 1/3 into your career! What we immediately start to do is break down all the bricks in the career foundation and create paths based on transferable skill sets. The options are limitless if you think about a career as a pyramid. The wider the base and the stronger the block/bricks, the taller the pyramid (your career!)

5. A Career is full of ‘Push and Pulls’

The most important concept on this page might be the need to invest in your network, cultivating sponsors, advocates, and endorsements. Every career has both pushes and pulls. Sometimes your agent, manager, mentor, or coach will be able to push you into a new opportunity based upon your performance. Today its probably more likely that top talent gets pulled. That is the velocity of change and the need to fill growing organizations is so great that talent acquisition pros (and well networked managers!) reach down into their network and are constantly pulling talent up.

In summary, what comes first is important. You need to have the right network, toolkit (set of skills), and career plan to make sure when the bell rings you are ready. The bell is always ringing and if you haven’t worked on the right things first and been intentional about your career and your personal brand, that is someone else’s bell you are hearing.

About Mike McNamara:

Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.

Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services. Today he coaches a number of high profile media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.

Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House – St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.

see more from the blog at www.mikemcnamara.com

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