Listen: Viral Careering[audio:http://welchwrite.com/career/audio/2008/career-op-20081024.mp3]
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If you follow the Internet world at all, you have surely head the term viral marketing. The way I describe viral marketing is to make content so good, so compelling, so fun, so interesting that others cannot help but pass it along to their friends and contacts. I was discussing this concept on another show I produce (New Media Answers, Viral Marketing, http://newmediainterchange.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/new-media-answers-007-viral-marketing/) for New Media Interchange when it occurred to me that Viral Marketing can apply to your career, as well. In this case, though, viral careering would be to perform your work so well that others can’t help but talk about you and what you have done for the company.
Let me be clear here, viral careering isn’t about relentless self-promotion. Promoting yourself within a company, without considering the reactions and emotions of those around you can be a quick path to the unemployment office. Viral careering comes from a much deeper source and a source that most of us are trying to access on a day-to-day basis. Viral careering comes from our desire to do the best work possible and, more importantly, have a positive effect on the world around us. Yes, we have to “get the word out” about what we are doing, but in the best cases, this happens organically as a result of the work, not some manipulative marketing plan.
Viral careering isn’t about touting your successes. It is about sharing the information, skills and knowledge that led to those successes. Sending out a memo about how your project came in under-budget and on-time is one thing. Sharing the methods for achieving those results goes much farther. It allows the project to shine brightly, while you get to bask, a bit, in the glow. Sharing information shows a willingness to give back to the company and your fellow employees. Sure, you rightly deserve credit for your successes, but buffering your need and desire for credit with humility and and understanding of human nature can go a long way towards raising your profile within your company. Even better, it can help to reduce the number of enemies that all of us create as we move up the corporate structure.
Enemies? Yes, I said enemies. Over the course of our career there will always be a certain number of people that see us as an enemy, even if we don’t feel likewise. This comes from a sense of scarcity. Some people will believe that every success you gain is a success that is withheld from them. Instead of seeing success as an unlimited natural spring, they see it as a slowly shrinking desert pond. Every drink you take is one denied them. Add this to the natural factors of conflicting personalities and differing attitudes and you can see that gathering enemies is, sadly, a natural process.
Viral Careering helps to alleviate some of the animosity that success can cause while still developing the career you deserve. First, sharing your successful experience and tactics gives you the opportunity to recognize others who helped you achieve your goals. People are much less likely to resent your success if you share some of that success with them. Second, when the focus is on a successful project or product, you won’t appear to be promoting yourself. You will still gain credit and recognition for your success, but others will be less likely to see your actions as solely self-serving. In fact, this is one way you can judge your own actions. Are you doing something solely for the benefit of yourself or does everyone benefit?
It may be cliche, but the concept of win-win is important in any viral campaign. The creator wins because you share their product, you win for sharing the cool information with others and the receiver wins by learning something, being entertained or both. Is everyone successful when you succeed? If not, you are making more enemies than supporters.
Think about the last viral video you emailed to someone. Think about the email you forwarded to all of your friends. What made you do it? What was it about the content that was so compelling, so funny, so important you had to pass it on? Look for this same content in your own career and bring the viral nature of the new media world to bear on building the career you deserve.
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