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Mastering your Craft

In the past, to learn a profession in the skilled trades, a person would start out as an apprentice, working for low wages (if any) while being taught by a more experienced worker. After several years, the apprentice becomes a journeyman; deemed competent to do the job under supervision of a master craftsman. Eventually a journeyman can become a master craftsman after demonstrating a mastery of your profession, often by producing a masterpiece or masterwork. (Sidebar: if you want to see this in action, watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi – I found it, ahem, riveting.)

The apprentice-journeyman-master progression became commonplace in Medieval Europe, with smiths, carpenters, masons and other skilled trades. In the modern era, apprenticeship programs are still common for trades like welders, carpenters and plumbers.

In the white-collar world, very few companies provide comprehensive training or apprenticeship programs. Internships and college degree programs will give a baseline understanding of things but will not fully prepare you to the job. Starting a new job is usually entails a week or two of training, online videos and augmented by on-the-job training (OJT). The result is most employees learn their job from their peers & managers, making the same mistakes they made, and adopting their bad habits. For example, when I started my career as a recruiter, my training more or less was being told, “If you want to learn how to cold call, make 10,000 calls – if it takes you six months, or six years, you’ll know how to do it well by then.” Talk about OJT…

Eventually employees will manage to get past their rookie status and achieve some level of competence in their job – that is the definition of journeyman – and stop. Very few will take it upon themselves to continue to master their craft. And companies are fine with that. They are filled with B- and C-players doing just enough to not get fired. But not you – if you are reading this, chances are you are an A-player or at least have the desire and potential to be one. People like you are the reason the Rivet Group exists. Our work is solely focused on working with people like you – and finding companies that value what you can bring to the table.

Why bother achieving mastery? Two simple reasons: if you are intrinsically motivated, a job well-done will be a significant factor in job satisfaction. The other reason is you will be able to command top compensation in the marketplace.

If you are just starting your career or switching to a new one achieving mastery in your new profession will be challenging. We have compiled a list of best-practices from professionals who have gotten to the top of their profession.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Commit. At some point, you need to go all-in and decide that this is what you are going to do or be. You won’t make it without that commitment.

  2. It’s your responsibility. You must own responsibility for your career development. Your manager or HR will not. If they don’t provide the tools for you to improve, go find them yourself or change companies to one that does. Create a plan and hold yourself accountable.

  3. Practice. If the grind means making 10,000 calls, hitting 10,000 balls, or practicing for 10,000 hours to get you there, then you’d best get started.

  4. Speaking of the grind…it takes time. Don’t give up or quit because you are not where you want to be. Incremental progress is still progress.

  5. Seek out opportunities to learn. Get certifications, go to grad school, continuing education, participate in professional organizations. Even free resources like YouTube or the public library can help you get there. But it’s a choice.

  6. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process, if you actually learn from your mistakes.

  7. Hold management accountable. If your boss commits to letting you go to a trade show, give you time to cross train, or pay for a certification, make sure they follow through.

  8. Seek out and learn from the best. Find people within your company or your industry who are masters at what they do – learn from them. Ask questions, ask for mentoring. Chances are that the legends in your field have written books you can learn from.

  9. Keep learning. Read. A lot. Trade journals, blogs, magazines, articles, books, podcasts - you can always learn new things, and often recognize industry trends and new things long before others.

  10. You are only competing with yourself. Comparing your performance to someone with much more skill, ability, or years of experience can be disheartening…especially if they make it look easy. Likewise, if your peers are doing the bare minimum, don’t pace them. Work every day to be a better version of yourself from yesterday.

If you are ready to commit and master your craft, today is the day to take that first step. We’d like to hear from you and learn about you and your journey. Feel free to schedule some time with us!

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