You live to make your customers’ lives better. As it turns out, the opportunity could be reciprocal.
Your customers — they are everything. They are the reason for your company, product, or service. So you jump out of bed every day, looking to keep your customers happy and bring them the product or service they long for and need.
You have a job because of your customers. But by doing a little digging, you could lean on your customers to create a better job for yourself.
Why look to your customers for career development?
Hypothetically speaking, let’s assume that you are ready for career growth. Perhaps you are bored in your current role and want to make an impact. Maybe you are the founder, and looking for inspiration to grow professionally. Rather than jumping ship and starting a new career, have you considered shaping the role you LOVE, a better job, right where you are?
The customers are the core of your business, and if you can find the overlap of your needs and your customer’s needs, you could orchestrate your dream job.
Creating entrepreneurial opportunities for yourself within your company is as simple as putting the customer at the core of your exploration and following the two phases of self-exploration and customer-centered ideation.
Phase 1: Self-Exploration
Have you spent any time thinking about what drives you? This reflection is often left for the future when you “have time” to think about things like career growth and work-life fit. But if you want to shape your role, you need to make the time today. Here are three ways to kick-start your self-exploration:
1. Think, Write & Reflect
Block out 2-4 hours to think about your needs. Some of that time will be sitting, staring at a piece of paper, but try to disconnect from your emails/texts/calls or anything that can disturb your flow. Write down anything and everything. Ask yourself questions like, “What’s missing in my life?” And with each answer, ask “why” to get yourself deeper.
You will also need to go deep into the 5 whys interview tool to get to the causes of a problem. The 5 Whys interview tool creates a process to delve deeper into the reasons. Asking 5 whys can uncover the factors that created the problem, thereby allowing for better problem-solving.
You will have landed on the cause when asking “why” stops providing insights and you can go no further.
2. Personality Test
It may feel a bit cheesy, but personality tests can be fun and do the job of getting you started in your self-evaluation. It’s a great place to start if you are feeling stuck and will provide a place to reflect.
The 16 Personalities test is a free tool that just takes 20 minutes to finish. It gives a quick report that highlights your skills, interests, and potential challenges.
3. Talk to Mentors
Take your reflection or personality test results and talk with those that you respect and that know you. Ask about what resonates with them as things they see in you. Ask about things you may have missed.
Leverage your mentors to get more in-depth, but don’t expect to get a definitive answer on next steps. That will have to come from you, as only you will be able to unlock what will make you happy.
Once you have done some thinking around what motivates you,take a step back and list out some things you could do in your career to execute on it.
I found that I am most engaged at work when I am solving tough problems. So in my self-evaluation, I began by outlining ways I could address issues at work. I landed on things like improving operations or creating scalable marketing programs.
Your self-evaluation will be one piece of the puzzle. The second phase requires looking at your customer’s needs.
Phase 2: Customer-Centered Ideation
Start at the core of why your company exists — the customer. Customer-centric thinking is one of the most fulfilling ways to innovate and one that is driving most businesses. The customer is the heart of your organization. Things to consider are the problems that your customer or client faces and how your company could address it.
Spend time with your customers. Whether that is one-on-one (preferred) or even just diving into their customer support questions or comments online.
Some of the customer-centric questions to ask include:
-What is the biggest challenge that you face in ___?
-How does our product/service help you?
-Where does our product/service have room for improvement?
-What else could we do?
There are countless other questions you should ask, but these are a good starting point. Use these and follow up with the 5 whys to go deeper, and at the root of the problem.
Observe and interview customers for inspiration on how to pair their needs with your career needs.
I was able to take my self-evaluated career goal to improve operations and align it with the customers’ needs to have a simplified bulk purchase flow. Over time, my product manager role evolved into a more senior operations role, allowing me to further my career while putting the customer first.
Your business strategy is focused on putting your customer first, and at the core of your business. Your customers, for all the wonderful and amazing things you provide to them, could be doing something for you too: make your job better.
How could you leverage your customers to help you?