Aptitude + Attitude = Altitude
To advance your professional Altitude its helps to have two essential things;
A solid Aptitude for what you’re doing and a great (not just good) Attitude, toward what you’re doing. I mean, come on, would it kill you to show a little enthusiasm?
Therefore I say to you; Aptitude + Attitude = Altitude
OK so what does this really mean? It’s not just crazy math. It’s not enough to be really smart any more. The corporate halls are littered with smart MBA’s. You must also possess a great, can do, attitude with strong interpersonal and communications skills. If a prospective employee doesn’t demonstrate these essential attributes, I won’t hire them.
Believe it or not, it’s way more difficult to teach one attribute over the other. Can you guess which one? No it’s not the one that requires parents to mortgage their house to put their kid through university. While many parents might argue, that’s extremely hard, at least financially for them and yeah they have to get that kid to actually attend class, it’s actually easier to learn technical or hard skills than it is to teach people to have a great attitude or soft skills. No I’ve not done a scientific study but I have been hiring, firing (we don’t call it that anymore) and leading people for over 20 plus years. I’m told by some I’m pretty good at it. Who am I to argue with those brilliant people?
So back to math. I’m happy to debate with anyone and invite you to comment (if there is anyone reading this, hello?) if you have a different opinion. I’ve hired hundreds of people in my career and inevitably the ones who do well are those who came into the interview with an incredibly positive attitude, able to articulate clearly while freely admitting they didn’t have all the skills and experience the job may require, but they were positive they could quickly overcome those minor issues. Minor? Don’t get me wrong, skills and experience are critical, but a positive attitude and good communications skills (remember the soft stuff), now that’s really hard to find.
You just can’t teach people to love their job, to have energy and passion about what they do. You just can’t. They either have it or they don’t. Communication, now while you can teach people to hone their communications skills, it’s very difficult. It can take years of practice to teach people to think logically and order their minds, to string sentences together coherently to articulate a point clearly and concisely without going off into left, or right field for that matter. It is easier than the positive attitude thing but still really tough.
So, you say, all I need then to advance at work is a positive attitude and communication skills right? Wrong!
Don’t think a positive and winning personality is all you need to get you where you want. A great, can do attitude, will only get you so far if in fact you can’t do. You’ve got to have aptitude. This is the ability to learn something you don’t yet have deep skills in (Yet!). I’ve seen many people struggle, yes albeit with a positive attitude, who failed miserably because they just didn’t have the aptitude for the role. This does not mean they are not smart. Smart people don’t have an aptitude for everything. Many great thinkers, ponder great possibilities but can’t read a spreadsheet or balance a budget. In my line of work, those who are great negotiators are not necessarily great strategic sourcers. It’s a very different skills set. It can be learned however, if you have the aptitude for it. Take me, I dis-like math and analytics. I didn’t have a natural ability but I was able to learn and hone my math and analytical skills over time.
So what can you do?
First, figure out what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at and enjoy doing. I know everyone says this but it’s very true. If you love what you do, you will have a positive attitude about it. You will also want to learn more and more about it and therefore you develop an aptitude. I pour over whitepapers about Strategic Sourcing and Procurement, what’s the next big thing and where the profession is going. I love it and what I do. Insert obligatory plug for www.procurepro.ca. I know times are very tough but resist the urge to take a job for the sake of a job. If you are thinking about or are in a job that you don’t really like or are just there for the money until something better comes along. Stop. This could lead to you hating your job which will come across in your attitude which could lead to an unfortunate outcome for everyone. Getting let go. This is not good for you and unfair to the employer. It costs them thousands of dollars to recruit and hire people. It’s also not fair to you. It’s unimaginably stressful to wake up every morning and go to a job that you dislike and that quite frankly you’re not really good at. Not to mention it will look really bad on your resume.
Lastly, never stop learning and in particular, invest in your communication skills. There are many courses offered at many colleges and universities. Practice makes perfect. Plan and practice often. Take every opportunity you can to learn how to better communicate. Model someone at the office who you think is a great speaker. What makes them a great speaker? How can you adopt some of these skills? Ask them. I bet they would be happy to help. Your manager is also a great source. They are there to help you, mentor you and critique you so you can get better. Join Toast Masters (www.toastmasters.org) where you will be surrounded by like-minded people who are also trying to hone their communication and presentation skills.
While some would say I’m a good communicator, it was not always the case for me. Earlier in my career I was pretty bad. I would frequently get lost in thought only to find myself being stared at by my boss with a puzzled look on their face. Too many thoughts were racing through my head and I couldn’t figure out how to get them out of there in the right order to make sense and get my point across. It takes practice, practice practice.
Your perfect job or that big promotion is within your grasp. Your positive attitude coupled with an aptitude will help you achieve that sought after altitude!