It’s not often I share my own struggles and challenges here, but in the interest of transparency and accountability, I am. One of the outcomes of being superb in many respects of social media and desiring control of many things is the undeniable fact that I find myself digging in the trenches and not conducting my work in social media.
I’ll warn you, this is long and deeply personal.
I’m not alone, at least I don’t think so. Many people who consider themselves ‘social media experts’ or ‘social media strategists’ become victim of their own success and end up doing the dirty work without salvation of others supporting their growth. Deep, I know.
Now, it’s at least not for sheer ignorance; it’s mainly a result of perspective. I legitimately feel I am credited to helping my company become social and interactive across the social web. I adamantly defend that and I know my accomplishments are notable and stand on their merit. But, it’s not about credit; it’s about sustainability and functionality.
In my absence, I should not feel guilt or a sense of panic for the fact that processes are put on hold until I get back. Currently, it’s how I feel. It’s how I amassed 150 hours last year of vacation time with only burning about 12 of it. It’s a cause of concern for me. I know my co-workers don’t have this guilt or immense responsibility on their shoulders; why do I burden it?
Personally, I feel my role at serving the company is incomplete. Vastly. I realize and witness the work of industry peers that I look up to and it leaves me with a void feeling. Not a feeling of satisfaction or pride. And I didn’t always feel that way, but in my field, it’s fast moving, results-oriented and requires a high caliber of creativity.
I thought about all this as a friend of mine passed along a recommendation that I apply my talent for another company that is arguably very social. I raised my own doubts because I questioned, critically, “What would I really provide?” This was a reality check for me. My skills and talent used to be rare and unquestionably sought after. Now? My skills and talent can ostensibly be replaced by offshore contractors for $5 an hour.
But I know that my experience and drive for personal growth an development isn’t a concern for me. Nobody can take that from me and I genuinely want to learn, grow, feel pain, and feel satisfaction. Just as one door shuts, another opens. That’s my attitude – coming from the angle of opportunity, not scarcity.
A while ago, I read Jeremiah Owyang’s whitepaper explaining the blunt reality of people who serve as social media helpdesks and those who lead. It bothered me. Not in the sense that it pissed me off that he wrote it – the opposite. He’s right on the money. I am the social media helpdesk and my career path is limited because of it. This piece among many published from Jeremiah really spoke to me – often, he publishes content for the C-suite as that’s his target audience, but this was different. I thank him eternally for awakening me to this concept.
I’ve distilled his advice into these areas that I want to work on. Some might say it’s common sense and I’m short-minded for not thinking of this sooner, but I need to start somewhere.
- Build sustainable and redundant processes for social support.
- Establish a leadership position in discussing matters pertaining to social media and engagement.
- Facilitate key relationships that promote personal and professional growth.
- Teach others on social media – insider practices, strategy and execution.
… Essentially, provide a deeper, meaningful impact to the business and not to orphan oneself into a skillset. It’s daunting, but I’m always up for a challenge.
Please don’t interpret this that I am disgusted in my job. Far from it. I love what I do and I love that I have a lot of opportunity to grow. See, a year ago, I haven’t felt that. I’ve never worked at place where I feel so energized and empowered to kick ass and make a difference for customers and subsequently, the company. I am also praised frequently and that usually keeps me at peace that I am making a difference.
Let me take a step back and share where I am at, career-wise.
A year ago, when I sat down in front of my manager for one of my quarterly reviews, my sixth manager in two years asked me about my goals. No one has ever done that with me in my ten years of working. She sat down and asked me point-blank, “What do you want to do here, long-term, in the future?” From that moment on, I respected her because of her interest to support my interests. Ever since working for her, I’ve grown incredibly trusting, respectful and admiring of her expertise that she can help me grow and take me to the next level. And sure as hell, I give her enough grief for it, so it’s time I deliver.
“Hmm. I, uh, I want to… uhh. Let me think–” I pondered in deep thought, with a blank stare. I never actually considered this question. “I’d be content doing the same thing I do here for the next few years,” I replied. It’s true that I would be content doing what I do today for the next few years. She pressed me again, “And after that?” I lamented that I eventually want to grow into a director position, but I really had no concept of what that really meant for me, my role or my own vision for the future. Sure, a pay raise, but what else?
From then on, I’ve been operating in a place of purgatory. Not quite totally sure of where I’m going, but I’ll do the best with what I’ve got, but not quite disappointed, either. I’ve been hitting my numbers and feeling mostly satisfied and keeping my head up that things are alright.
Just recently, she inquired again and I more or less volunteered it. It’s amazing what a year of thought, bitching, listening and ranting can do to synthesize your ideas. I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to grow into a leadership position where I conduct and lead content strategy, industry conversation and inspire others to learn and grow under me. While I have some limited experience being a people-manager, I think it’s the next step. I feel incredibly proud whenever someone learns from me. I feel a sense of confidence and comfort that others can do what I do – or at least grow into that – and that makes me feel good and gives me a longer outlook and vision for the next year or two and that’s better than only seeing a quarter ahead.
Sometimes, I trick myself into feeling satiated. We all do it and I know you do it, too. Doing ‘enough’ is not good enough. To be great, you must be great.
Well, I am challenging myself to grow. My personal satisfaction, my career and my peers expect me to. Without it, I eventually grow jaded and punching the clock – and that’s neither something people want nor respect.
I am on a mission – a mission to learn, a mission to experiment and a mission to once again become on top of my game that others lust after. No ego about it, I want to once again feel on top and drive results that back what I say. As Lil’ Wayne says, “Bullshit talks and money walks.” I am not after more money; I am after more results and more tried and true experiences that propel my employer and me forward. (My previous manager and I laughed together once as we agreed that I am not financially motivated to perform better; I continually operate at 100% and that surprised both of us.)
And yes, I’ve read Linchpin. Yes, I think it’s a great book. But it lacks one key area – an area that not even Seth Godin can explain. How does one realistically go from a cog to an inventor? It’s not overnight. It’s not indefinite. It’s somewhere in between and that’s what I aim to set out and find.
A goal without a date is merely a dream. A goal without a measurement is just an idea. So, by mid-year, I want to develop redundant publishing and listening processes across the organization. By year-end, I want to be able to train key personnel on community management and social customer service and be able to take a vacation and not come back to an overdue task list. Likewise, I want to invest more time into strategic planning and being principal to a series of initiatives and not necessarily the person doing it.
Watch out, world. Watch out, naysayers. This social media helpdesk’s “open” light is flickering.