A young audio engineer recently got in touch with me asking for some career advice.
As always, I’m happy to help and I invited him to my studio for a chat. After taking over a month to make a booking, we actually got to the date and he didn’t show up. He didn’t send me a courtesy message in advance to let me know. He just forgot.
It reminded me of one of my favourite sayings: “Half of life is showing up”. I like it because there are many interpretations and hidden meaning behind those six words.
You have to show up
It’s the first thing. If you’re going to get anywhere at all, you need to start by showing up. I’m not just talking about physical presence (although that often helps). I’m talking about being present for people. Being courteous. Keeping them on your mind. I want to work with you but not if I get the sense that your focus is elsewhere.
As far as physical presence goes, get your house in order. It’s not that hard to show up on time. It’s not that hard to give people advance notice if your situation changes (or is likely to change). If it’s hard for you, you need to take a good look at what’s holding you back. Yes, having a calendar helps, but you have to make a ritual to look at it every night and every morning.
As far as personal presence goes, keep in touch. Yes, phones can run out of batteries or credit if you’re not careful. If this is you, be careful. Make a ritual of charging your phone every night. Make sure you’ve got twice as much credit as you think you need. You need to show that you can keep your own life in order before I will trust you.
You have to do more than just show up
It’s not just showing up. You have to help people.
Education will often give you the skills to do a job, but you have to grow and develop on your own. I often see people rely on their education to give them everything they need, which then results in them looking for an employer to give them everything they need. It often sounds like “I need a job”, “I need someone to pay me”, “I need to get employed”. This self-centred attitude will not get you far. It’s not enough to just show up. You have to reach out and connect with people. You have to offer to help. You have to make a contribution. You have to move the needle.
It’s uncomfortable. You’ll find yourself doing things that you think are beneath you, but people will value you highly for it. You’ll find yourself being asked to do things that you think are beyond your capabilities, but people will trust you and give you a chance. Your most valuable skills won’t be what you thought they’d be. You’ll learn how to do things that you didn’t even know anyone had to do. But you’ll do it all. And more.
But you need to help people.
It also means you need to understand them. Really understand them. Try to remove your “I need a job” filter. Listen to what they need. Listen to their goals and dreams and understand what’s holding them back. They might come to you asking for a recording, but maybe what they really need is for someone to believe in them. Or maybe they need a pizza. Or maybe they need a kick up the backside to motive them.
Sometimes you have do the other half
You also need to do things that are only possible when you don’t show up. Get some distance. Maybe go on holidays. Or maybe just blank out your calendar for a week. Whatever it takes, you need to remember to step back from the trees and see the forest. Take note of where you’re at. Ask yourself if you’re happy with how things are going. Are you heading in the right direction? Are you making a significant contribution? How’s your life balance? If you’re not satisfied with where you’re at now, where do you want to be? What are the next steps toward that goal? Even if you are satisfied with where you’re at, you will need to grow and develop. You probably won’t be doing exactly what you’re doing now in five years time. What new tools will you need? What skills will you need? What personal connections will you need?