The talk of the town in the NBA right now is New York Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin. Overnight, the undrafted Lin went from obscurity to being mentioned in the same sentences as Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
All the hype is based on Lin’s ability to step into a high-pressure situation in the NBA and deliver. Some attribute his success to luck while others call it a fluke (Mayweather says Lin Hype is Race-Related). I attribute his success to discipline, determination and having what I call a “walk-on” mentality.
What Is A Walk-On Mentality?
In collegiate sports, “walking-on” means having to tryout to make the team. Walk-ons don’t receive scholarships. In short, when you develop a “walk on mentality,” it means that nothing will be handed to you. You have to prove yourself everyday. You have to earn it and there’s never an opportunity to take it for granted. In short, you have to work harder.
Like many young professionals in a competitive workforce, Lin wasn’t given an opportunity to show his value. But he didn’t bemoan this. Instead, he kept his head down and worked harder at his craft. When an opportunity presented itself, he was ready. A “walk-on” mentality can ensure you’re ready when it’s your time to shine.
Below are five ways to apply a walk-on mentality in your career to stand out amongst your colleagues.
1. First In/Last Out
As a former boss once told me: if you’re on time – you’re late. Metaphorically, always be the first in and the last to leave. Demonstrate an amazing work ethic. It won’t go unnoticed.
2. Do The Job No One Else Wants To Do
Want to stand out? A great way is to volunteer to do a project that no one else wants to do. Always say yes. This may not be fun or sexy, but early in your career you are becoming what Seth Godin calls a “linchpin”. You are becoming indispensable. People will start asking for you because they know you can get the job done.
3. Invest In You
Don’t be afraid to spend money on you to build your brand. This means attending workshops and conferences, taking classes, having your own website or purchasing business cards. This is critically important. And this isn’t just about spending money. Study and conduct research. Become a student of your field reading everything you can about your industry.
4. Do The Job You Want To Do, Even If You’re Not Paid For It
When I began my career at Nickelodeon, I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, I was hired as a production assistant. However, that didn’t stop me from writing scripts everyday on top of my other responsibilities. For months I submitted scripts for the head writer to review and request feedback. Then, and I remember this so well, someone was out sick one day and my opportunity presented itself. Here’s the deal: It only takes someone being out sick one day for you to step in.
5. Got An Idea – Execute It
People who get noticed are proactive, not passive. They make things happen. Don’t wait to get hired to do something that interests you. Do it for you. For example, if you want to pitch your boss a new idea or project, always remember: it’s easy to kill something that doesn’t exist. Don’t just go in with just an idea. Go in with as much as the project complete.
These five steps can make all the difference in you career. They demonstrate that you’re committed, indispensable and proactive. All signs of a true winner.
As they say, luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Jeremy Lin is a great example of this. Will you be ready when it’s your turn to shine?
Antonio Neves is a career coach, an award-winning broadcast journalist, and the founder of THINQACTION, an organization dedicated to young professionals.