advancement average

You are Just the Average Joe (or Jane)

Friday, January 15, 2016 Peter A. James

You are just the Average Joe (or Jane).

I just insulted you . . . but it’s all in how you receive it. I’m not making this up. Even Wikipedia has a page for you. Actually, most people (the average) that I come into contact with are genuinely not happy with their situation. And most are not doing anything about it. They are taking a “wait and see” approach (see below).

Here are some Average Joe statistics:
  • Fewer and fewer people are satisfied with their jobs (Harvard Business Review)
  • Only 1 in 3 Americans are very happy (Huffington Post).
  • 70% (of respondents) described themselves as “disengaged” from their work (Gallup).
  • Nearly half of American households don’t save any money (Business Insider)
  • There are even articles that talk about why we should accept average (Mark Manson)
So, if we do the math, many who are reading this are on the negative side of these statistics. I think the next question has to be, “how comfortable are you being average”? Once you answer this, you can the reflect on how you got here, and consider how to get out.

Wait and see . . .

You’ve heard it before: “I’m just not going to do anything right now and see what happens.” “I’ll just ride it out.” “I’ll just send out some online applications.” That’s doing enough, right? Unfortunately, it’s not. The “wait and see” approach drops you into the statistics that were mentioned above. I’ve been in the “wait and see” category and in hindsight, it was the stupidest thing that I have ever done. I’ve had many regrets and here’s why - success waits for no one. You have to seize success and grab it by its horns. You have to have a plan and set it in motion.

Depending on others

This is another habit we fall victim to. Here’s an example - a boss promises that if you wait your turn, great things will happen. So what do we do? We just wait. We work hard. We don’t get into any trouble. We even go the lengths of arriving early and staying late in order to show our commitment. We do this for months and sometimes years. Don’t get me wrong, we may get rewarded for our “loyalty” by the boss or bosses who are looking out for us, but if a great talent happens to sneak his or her way onto your boss’ radar, does that loyalty still exist? What happens if a friend of the boss is referred for the same position? Favoritism is a word for a reason. Don’t obsess over fairness. 

The fact is that depending on others or a company for your success is a gamble. Luckily, it’s not a bad gamble if you are doing more than keeping your nose clean. Are you pursuing certifications, furthering your education, strengthening your value to the company by learning other skills that set you apart? If so, you might have more than a fighting chance. If not, I’ll pull out the poker table for you.

Using Available Resources

Often times, setting ourselves apart does not have to cost a lot of money. The scenarios I described above usually do not have to cost anything. As an example, most organizations have some sort of educational or skill strengthening program within their walls. Many companies will reimburse their workers for education; and there are courses available online that are used to sharpen particular skills (i.e., MITOpenCourseWare, iTunesU). Even contacting a local community college in order to get a little bit of knowledge can set yourself apart from the rest. Last, but not least, read as much as you can! 


Differentiation over time is another way to demonstrate your value to the organization (and your boss). And if there is no value that you can bring to the organization you are with, then it is time to bring value to another organization. Yes, when your organization does not realize the value that you possess, it is time to “circulate your resume.” And trust me folks, differentiation does not just mean, “Oh, they’re a hard worker”. 

News flash . . . Most average employees are hard workers. Differentiation is about a niche or a skillset that separates you from the rest, specifically, the average. I don’t know what it is for you, but you have to find out what it is and maximize it, then promote it. 

“Life is too short to blend in”

I recently read the quote above written by one of my favorite bloggers (@cammipham) and it resonated with me. I don’t know about you, but being average is not my cup of tea. I have big dreams, big ideas and big goals. I have every intention of accomplishing all of them, but there’s a small issue. My employer may not be on board with those dreams, ideas and goals. They have their own agenda . . . and I get it. But in order to accomplish mine, I have to step outside of my comfort zone. I have to stretch myself in order to get there and eventually adjust. This must be done over and over again. In 2016, I am exercising steadfast endurance in order to stand out and reach those goals. Hopefully, you now have reflected on where you are on the average spectrum. And based on these reflections, what are you going to do about it?

Peter A. James: Coach, Accountability Partner (AP), Professor | | @drpaj

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