I wrote a few weeks ago about taking the initiative and not waiting
for other people to assist you with your career. This week I will expand
on that a little farther. There are times when pushing for promotions,
new clients or big projects might not be the best action to take. Sometimes
you need to pull opportunities and clients towards you. In fact, this
is often the way to find your best career opportunities.
Push, push, push
Conventional business wisdom indicates that you need to be constantly
digging for new work, new clients and new sources of income. It
would have us believe that advertising, networking, cold calls,
the way to insure business success. While I cannot dispute that
all these concepts have a place in business, when you focus entirely
on these aspects you might find yourself disappointed.
These “push” mechanisms can help to build your career somewhat,
but you might find that they can also have destructive effects. Sometimes
when you push too hard you end up attracting the wrong sort of client
or the wrong sort of projects. While others might claim that there
is no such thing — money is money, after all — I would
have to take issue with that. There are indeed clients and projects
that can be detrimental to your career goals and using “push” methods
is often how you find yourself in this position.
Good client/bad client
Advertising is an interesting beast. You want to attract new clients,
but how do you know that these clients will be the ones you want.
When people respond to a general advertisement in the paper or
they know nothing about you, your work or your philosophy towards
your work. You might find that you are in agreement on certain
you are just as likely to find that you disagree. You can find yourself
in a situation where a difficult client begins taking up an inordinate
amount of your time, while paying the same fee as a good client.
In fact, your other clients can start to suffer because of your
with another client. Over time you find yourself doing more and more
work that you enjoy less and less. This is my definition of a bad client.
If you do decide to advertise, you need to start slowly, gaining an
understanding of the client and they of you. Secondly, you need to
be able to walk away or “fire” any client that starts to
go bad. Remember, you are not losing a client so much as protecting
your base of other clients. Only work with clients for whom you like
to work and everyone will be happier.
Just as in life, the opposite of “push” is “pull.” One
of the best ways to garner new clients and develop the high-tech career
you want is to pull these clients from your relationships with other
My consulting career lives and dies on referrals from my existing
clients. Over the years, we have found that we understand one another
work closely together to accomplish a common goal. Because of this,
they instinctively know if one of their friends or business partners
can work with me. I can be reasonably sure that when I receive a
referral from these clients, that I will be able to work with this
This is the level beyond cold calls and general advertising. My existing
clients are pre-qualifying my new clients.
You may not believe that your career can actually work this way, but
I assure it can. Your job is to find these good clients out of the
giant “haystack” of possible clients and cultivate them
to the best of your ability. When I work with a client for the first
time, it is often to do some small, mundane task. This allows me to
prove to them that I can do the work, but it also allows us to get
to know one another before diving into a deep relationship that we
might regret later. After a few of these calls, I usually know on which
side of the good/bad scale the client falls.
You can find good clients via “push” methods, but I think
it is much more important to be aware of how you can “pull” clients
towards you. Cultivate your good clients and be open to the opportunities
they can present to you. I think you will find that the quality of
these referrals will far outweigh the random grab bag of clients that “push” can
bring. Finding and working for good clients, and those they refer,
is one sure way to better your high-tech career.
Book of the Week: The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg
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