Should You Always Compete?

Aug 15th, 2010 | By | Category: A game, abundance, application, aptitude, Career advice, career challenges, career choices, challenges, closing, competing, competitive challenges, competitive environment, competitive peers, economy, job description, mentor, office problems, peers, personality, problem, skills, success, training

I re-learned a lesson the hard way this week.  This summer I took a temporary job. When I was hired I was told the job had a definite term, and there would be no more work after the term was over. I accepted the job.  There were several people who were hired to accomplish the task, and all were hired under the same conditions.  I made two strategic errors.  First – Because the conditions of employment were short term, there appeared no advantage in competing with my peers.  Second – I broke my own rule of not giving more information than requested.

The work was not difficult, and it was easy to exceed the assigned goals. Since I thought there was nothing to be gained, I did not buy into the competition among the other workers, but instead considered myself a detached observer.  Perhaps I could learn a few tricks to pass on.  The competition styles were more subtle and less aggressive than most office environments, but readily identifiable.  Instead of countering the competition, I just watched events unfold as the others jockeyed for the better assignments, more work hour, and special consideration from the boss.  I feel a little foolish now, for soon work became scarce, and I found myself no getting assignments, while some of the others had stockpiled work, or were approaching the boss outside the normal channels.  None of which should have been surprising.  I did manage to recover and get my fair share of work, but not without considerable maneuvering which I could have avoided had I been more perceptible.  The lesson? Always bring your A game.  Although you may not need a sledgehammer to kill a fly, don’t let yourself be out maneuvered in any environment.

As the time for the project to end approached, everyone was asked if they would like work on a follow on project.  Once again I had miss calculated as the boss was asked to nominate members of the group in order of preference.  Although I was selected to work on the next project, I was not near the top of the list where I think I should have been.  The lesson is; always use your skill set to gain the best ranking possible, you never know when opportunities will occur.

The last mistake is the one that embarrasses me the most.  After the second project was over the boss asked if I would like to be considered for follow on work.  The first mistake was I hesitated.  Instead of just saying yes, I stopped to think about it.  She coached me, saying that I could always say no at a later time.  I appreciated her council, but instead of just saying yes, I went on to try to explain my hesitation, an even bigger mistake.  Instead of keeping my mouth shut, I went on to tell of all the vacation and travel plans I had which really chopped up the remaining few months of the year.  Although I thought I was being forthright by my explanation, the more I talked the more it sounded like I was bragging and making excuses.  She smiled and said she would put my name in anyway.  Last week everyone in the group was called back to work on the next phase of the project except me.  In addition, the one who played the competition game the hardest was the new boss.  One of my biggest rules is do not volunteer information unless you are asked, or give more information than is required.  I violated my own rule and paid the price.

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned is that there should not be any situations where you allow yourself to be out maneuvered, for lack of trying.  This does not mean you have to be aggressive or ruthless, but you should counter other’s attempts to subjugate or negate your status or performance.  This situation was not that sophisticated, and a few words at the proper time would have kept me in the game.  Instead of detaching myself, perhaps it would have been better to continue to hone my competitive skills.  Even if you feel there is no sense in competing, at least ensure that you are not lulled into being out maneuvered; it is a primary law of career survival.

The PracticaL Mentor

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