Eric Guroff’s Guest Blog: I Don’t Have a Label…Yet

I am currently accepting submissions for The Young Professional Project, a collective dive into different perspectives on the transition from college to life after college. The following is a submission from Eric Guroff, a rising college senior at Belmont University, a music and entrepreneurship major, and only one year away from release from academia and into the “real” world. You can follow Eric on his blog or on twitter @eguroff.  To submit your own guest blog, and a have a chance at getting published in an upcoming book from The Young Professional, email John@theyoungprofessional.com.

Some people have this “what the hell am I going to be when I grow up?” question easy. The answer is provided for them based on a technical skill set they have that slaps a one- or two-word “label” on their professional identity. A graphic designer. An audio engineer. A coder. These people certainly have more to offer than their label indicates, but the specific value (and price tag) associated with their skill is directly linked to a future job title. Hence, a label provides people with a jump on establishing their professional and personal identify for the next several decades.

My name is Eric Guroff, and I am not one of those people. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been searching for that one-word label for a long time now. I’ve bounced around from musician to audio engineer to journalist and entertained a host of options in between. But if you’re really like me, none of the hats you’ve tried on have fit quite right.

There are a lot of reasons for this. (Here’s my chance to blame “The Man”–yay!) First, the human instinct to immediately categorize everyone and everything we interact with leads to a self-perpetuating system. In other words, it is easier for people to understand compartmentalized units, so we have begun to not only view the outside world this way, but also use categories to perceive and communicate our own value.

Second, the new economy has dramatically reduced the need for traditional one-word label positions as compared to our parents’ generation. In his text, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes, “We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.” The economy has radically different human resource needs than ever before, but the education system, our parents, and society as a whole have continued to prepare us for a “real world” that left us generations ago.

So what do I make of this ambiguity? Well, last night it was with one of those classic 11-months-till-I-graduate panic attacks that every college student will eventually endure. But after I had successfully implemented the “Gooooosfraaabaaaa” approach I learned from the scholarly work of Jack Nicholson, a piece of wisdom hit me. Earlier last night, I had attended a lecture by Mark Montgomery, serial entrepreneur and digital music industry veteran, who said something that resonated through the anxiety of uncertainty. To paraphrase, he said that I am not worth my weight in salt (much less his time), if I can’t rattle off the 5 abstract things I am best at.

I don’t need a one- or two-word label to forge my career. In fact, I would challenge even the people that do have the fortune of a technical skill set and obvious job title that they do not need that label to make their way in this world. Instead, I need to know my own strengths like I know the lyrics to all too many Taylor Swift songs.

Knowing my strengths accomplishes two things. First, it provides information on what jobs I can perform without pigeon-holing me into something I may or may not want to do for the next half-century. Second, it at least temporarily eases the anxiety that comes with ambiguity. It creates enough of a constraint to curate the wide world into several potential directions, but it does not lock me into something that limits my potential.

– Eric Guroff, A Young Professional

To submit your own guest blog, and a have a chance at getting published in the upcoming book from The Young Professional, email John@theyoungprofessional.com.

2 Heads are Better Than My Head

Success does not birth itself. If you want to make a great life for yourself, then you need other people to help you. You need experienced people to support you. You need people who can counsel you from their own knowledge and experience. We call these people mentors.

At the Entrepreneur Center, I spend a lot of my time working with and training mentors. There are lots of things that a young professional could look for in a mentor. But at its simplest, if you are trying to find a mentor, look for people who have what you want.

Those are the people who will be able to help you get it too. If you can find someone who has what you want, and you can trust that person, ask her to be your mentor.

And don’t stop with one. One thing nearly every single great person I’ve talked to agrees on is that you need multiple mentors. You don’t need more than you can maintain engaging relationships with, but you need more than one. I recommend 3 to 5.

But if you don’t have any, start with one. Mentors drastically increase your likelihood for success, and drastically decrease the amount of time it will take you to attain it.

The sooner you get the help you need, the sooner you’ll have the success you want.

-John Murdock, The Young Professional

I Know Where What You Want is, But How Much Do You Want it?

I know where greatness is, and why so few people fail to find it.  Do you?

I’m not talking small, had a good day successes, but truly life defining, disruptive, game changing, huge success.  I know where it is.  I know where you can find it.  But I also know why most people fail to find it.

It’s hard to get there.  It’s at the intersection of dreams and execution.  But the only way to get there is through hard work, past the point of pain.

That’s why most people don’t get there.  They get to the point where it hurts too much, where the work is too hard, where the sacrifice is too great, to continue down the road.  Unfortunately, success wasn’t really that much farther down the road, it was just over the next hill.

But they couldn’t see it.  And the incline was steep.  And their legs were already burning.

There is no short cut.  There is no free ride.  The only way to get there is to keep taking every painful step.

Failure happens when people turn away from success.

Greatness happens when people don’t accept failure as an option.

So now that you know where greatness is, do you still want to go and get it?

 

-John Murdock, The Young Professional

Want to Get on Top?

The other night I had the privilege of watching Mark Montgomery give one of the lectures that only Mark Montgomery could give. If you don’t know Mark, he’s a fabulously successful serial entrepreneur, the founder & CEO of FLO thinkery, and a self acknowledged rabble rouser. In a freewheeling, spontaneous lecture, Mark produced more golden nuggets than a mine in San Francisco.

When asked what Mark attributed his success to, he didn’t choose any of his formidable talents that leave many normal humans in awe. Mark attributed his success to just one thing: he won’t give up.

Mark says his competition was smarter, better resourced, and better prepared. But Mark would work longer and harder than anyone else. If he got knocked down, he got back up. Mark lacks whatever gene enables others to give up. Because of that, he doesn’t. Because of that, he achieves the impossible.

So, for all the young professionals and college graduates out there, how bad do you want it? Bad enough to make impossible possible or just bad enough to try for a little while until it gets too hard?

If you want to do great things, the formula’s simple: keep doing things.  Every time they knock you off your horse, get back on and ride harder than before.

-John Murdock, The Young Professional


Step 1: Don’t Shoot

If you are a young professional or college graduate who has landed in a job that requires customer service skills, bless you.  If you are in a job that requires you employ those customer service skills with the general public, well not even blessing you is going to help.  You have entered into what becomes, for many, a unique level of hell.

I worked my way up the corporate ladder at Enterprise Holdings, and this video was a reality I and later my employees, dealt with on a daily basis.  I learned a lot from that experience, and managed to generate some record setting customer service scores for my offices.  There is a lot that went into that, and I go into all of that in detail in my upcoming book, The Young Professional: Customer Service Jobs Don’t Have to Suck, which is one step back from the original title, Customer Service Jobs Don’t Have to Make You Bring an Automatic Weapon to Work.

The first step to great customer service, is being able to step back from the initial desire to kill the rare but memorable random asshole who will try and ruin your day.  If you can quell the urge to fight with those customers, to stay calm, and try and find something about them to relate to on a positive level, you’ll be well prepared to deliver excellent service to the customers who are more deserving.

– John Murdock, The Young Professional


Babies Aren’t the Only Happy Accidents

Once upon a time, a college graduate was having trouble at work.  He was mired in mediocrity, and though he never made any big mistakes, he felt his work was taken for granted.  He complained about his plight one evening to his father:

“Father,” he said.  “I don’t know why I don’t seem to get noticed.  I haven’t even made a single mistake since I started.”

“Well Son,” his father respond, “have you done anything exceptional?”

“No, that would be too risky.  I don’t want to accidentally make a mistake.”

“Why are you so afraid of accidents?”

“They’re bad.”

“They might be unanticipated, but that doesn’t mean they always end badly.”

“Name one time an accident turned out to be a good thing.”  The college graduate stomped his foot.

“Well Son, you.”

Harness the power of accidents, and have the courage to make some mistakes.

-John Murdock, The Young Professional

Give Credit to Get Credit

A lot of young professionals and college graduates want to do as well as they can in life after college.  As part of that effort, they often deduce they need to accumulate as much credit as possible.  This is true.   The tricky part is, you get the most credit for giving the most credit.

If you want to get promoted and succeed in the workforce, people need to see you as a winner.  They need to see you as a reason for the things you are around succeeding.  But more than all of that, they need to feel like they want to give you credit.  The only way you do that is by giving it to them.

If you want people to talk about how great you are, help them look good.  Point out what they do well.  Make sure they know you are outwardly giving them credit.  Make sure they see you giving other people credit.  Ambitious young professionals need to be seen as credit givers.

Once young professionals become widely known as credit givers, their peers will turn them into credit receivers.  Their peers will speak well of them whenever they come up, and suddenly everyone is talking about how great you are.  That’s when you get what you want.

– John Murdock, The Young Professional