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In the past, you might have been told to jealously guard the secrets to your success and only give away as much information as it took to achieve your goals. Each piece of information you had, that someone else lacked, gave you a bit more power — a bit more leverage. You would tie people to you, knowing that no one person had all the answers — all the secrets. This was the path to career success. The goal was to make everyone so dependent on you that they couldn’t dare fire you. If you haven’t already figured this out, that world is no more. Using such behaviors today is more likely to get you fired rather than build your career.
Today’s successful careers are made up of 2 very important parts — teaching and sharing. I have found in my own career that the more information I share, the more information I give away, the more connections, the more visibility and the more money it brings back to me. In the past, you might have been able to horde information, but in today’s hyper-connected world, you are but one source of information. The quality of your information matters much more than the quantity. Hording information today is seen as an anti-social and aggressive behavior that puts the success of one person above the success of everyone involved.
You might be thinking, “but if you give everything away, how do you make any money?” The fact is, there are few people who are willing to go as deep into a project as you are. Like a doctor at a 1950’s cocktail party, people are constantly asking me technology questions. While I am more than happy to answer anything I can, I usually find that once I get beyond about 2 or 3 steps in a troubleshooting processing, they simply throw up their hands and say “Oh, just come over and make it work!” Unlike me, they aren’t inclined to dig down into a problem in the way that is required to solve it. They have their own interests, their on projects and their own needs. By being willing to share my knowledge, though, I am able to show that I have the ability to solve their problems, which turns into a consulting call for me. If I had immediately told them my rate and tried to set up an appointment, I am sure more than half would have simply walked away.
It is also important to be willing to teach those around you who want to learn. Sure, some folks just want you to fix it and really don’t care how you do it. Others, though, want to watch what you are doing and learn from it. Don’t see this as an effort to steal your knowledge, rather see this as an opportunity to give them the tools they need to move forward in their own work or career. The fact is, a more knowledgeable client is a benefit to you, not a detriment. If they have seen you edit the settings of their router, or simply reset it, it will be much easier to offer telephone support in the future. You won’t have to step them through each step by telling them where to click or what menu to choose. You will be able to move towards a solution to their problem directly instead of wasting their time and yours.
Doesn’t this reduce your billable hours, though? Actually, it might, but in return you gain something far more important, You gain a deeper realtionship with the client that will last for years (if not decades, as has been the case for me) instead of someone who calls once and never comes back. Being willing to share and teach develops a deep and long-lasting relationship with your clients, peers and co-workers that will stand the test of economic downturns, layoffs and new jobs. Instead of concentrating on the one-time value of a person, you start to see their lifetime value to you, your business and your career.
Teaching and sharing also establishes your credibility over time. You become the “expert” that everyone refers to their friends and even strangers they might meet. You become a friend and confidant that doesn’t make them feel stupid when they need help. You become the teacher that we all need and want in our lives. If you want to build a career that lasts, share your knowledge and teach whenever you can. The rewards for your efforts will come back a hundredfold.
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