Egos sometimes get a bad rap. They’re often associated with an outsized sense of self-worth or what might be called the Vladimir Putin complex. But, egos can be a good thing, and for a successful career, you actually need two of them.
Google’s dictionary defines ego as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.” In psychoanalysis, it is usually expressed in the singular, as one “part of the psychic apparatus.” In Career Activism, however, it can and should be viewed as two parallel sets of behavior.
First and foremost, in today’s competitive workplace, every Career Activist needs a big ego. You must be confident enough in your talent to voice your opinion and stand up for it in the push and shove of office discussions. The fastest way to a pink slip is to be seen as having little or nothing to contribute to the success of your employer.
There is, however, a critical limitation on the exercise of a big ego. It must be warranted. In other words, your opinion on occupational matters – the input you provide and the views you share – must be based on true expertise. You must have fully developed your capacity for excellence and kept it up-to-date.
Even when it’s justified, a big ego can run amuck. Preventing that from happening is where the second ego comes in. I’ve heard it called your “little ego,” but I think a better term is humility. Even the most expert of people can be wrong or have the validity of their views diminished by the arrival of new information. For that reason, a big ego is only as effective as its ability to be enlarged by the opinions and views of others.
So, make sure you bring two egos to work each day. The key to a successful career is self confidence expressed as the contribution of your expertise on-the-job and humility expressed as a willingness to listen to and learn from your coworkers. To put it another way, be seen as someone who’s big enough to matter and little enough to listen.
Thanks for reading,