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  • Chad Kanyer

Upgrading Your Nikes

Not many material things can truly lift my spirits, but when I finally crack into that bright-orange box and unveil a new pair of fresh-smelling Nikes, I am freaking stoked.

Stoked to try them on, to feel their "bounce" on the court, or to simply admire the "clean-slate" feeling they give me.

But, as we know, that feeling fades.

The first scuff on a new pair makes you want to scream, but the second one stings less, and before you know it, you stop caring.

You wipe them down here and there -- maybe even throw them in the laundry to freshen and tighten them up -- but they're more "functional" than "perfect" at that point.

A new pair of Nikes are a lot like a new job, I've realized -- and our generation is really big on constantly trading up for a new pair of kicks.

When you first saw the job, or the pair of shoes, online, they caught your eye. You made a few clicks, provided your information, and (with patience and persistence) they arrived.

The first few steps were great -- a "new" feeling.

They weren't comfortable yet, but you liked their look and appreciated their freshness.

They weren't familiar, but you had needed a change -- out with the old, in with the new.

They hadn't proven anything to you (and you hadn't proven that you'd wear them well either).


I'll just say it: we Millennials go for that next pair too quickly.

We stub our toe one day at the park, blame the shoe, and throw them out.

We purchased the shoe because it was good for us originally, but now we're obsessed with what they're called and how much they impress others.

We call Nike and demand an upgrade within 6 months, and they laugh at our unreasonable request.

Even worse: we fail to take care of the shoe and wonder why it fails to perform.

Listen, I get that jobs can run their course. If you are not challenged, you need to make a change (and many times, that change can be earned within your firm or your industry), but it is downright foolish to expect a new job to check all of your boxes within 6-12 months.

I've jumped around in my career a lot, and while my specialty (management consulting) somewhat leverages the diversity of those experiences, here are three things I do now that I wish I would've done earlier on in my career:

#1: "Shop" for Them More Selectively

The jobs that I've lunged at for the wrong reasons -- how good they look on the resume, the money, the fact that I'm exhausted by the hunt, or the fact that I hate my current job -- have never panned out.

Before you look at your resume or a job board, make a list of things you want to do every day at work. Think about what you've done and what you've been prevented from doing in the past. You won't get all of these things, but you can cross that bridge when you get there.

I mean, you have to at least have an idea of what your dream job is.

There is no rush in finding the right job. Take your time in shopping, and also take your time during the interview process. Ask tons of questions, not because you want to be perceived as someone with other options on the table, but because you want to be very sure that your decision is one that best suits you (and you can say that!).

Thoughtful, transparent, patient deliberation in Millennials is very rare -- the more you exhibit these traits, the more valuable you become in their minds.

Thoughtful, transparent, patient deliberation in Millennials is very rare -- the more you exhibit these traits, the more valuable you become in their minds.

#2: "Buy" Them More Decisively

Once you know what you want, make a decision and stick with it.

Don't play the game of pitting companies against each other and upping your price. You might think you're earning respect internally, but anything further than one round of that just makes you look like a greedy prick. You'd rather make $5K less per yer and have your team rooting for you when you start than being seen as a tough negotiator trying to maximize your starting salary. Nobody is rooting for that guy.

When you start a new job, mentally place the salary considerations where they belong --in the trash. The transaction is over.

When your new Nikes arrive, do you wear them every day constantly evaluate them against what you paid for them for the next year?

Well, if you do, I feel sorry for you. Dude, the transaction is over. Your decision has been made. Make it worth it!

When you start a new job, take on the same mentality as you (well, most) do when they get a new pair of Nikes. Put them on, smile, and get to work.

Aside from forgetting your salary, here are a few other things to do when you start a new gig (notice the underlying theme: humility):

  1. Work your ass off.

  2. Admit when you have no idea what people are talking about, but never call your ineptitude or laziness "being the new guy" -- that gets old.

  3. Make allies by doing the boring, tedious stuff. Yep.

  4. Provide value any way you can and have a great attitude.

  5. Show up early and leave late. Study, study, study.

  6. Attend the company happy hour. Share your personal stories. Ask about other people's experiences at the firm and in life. Be real; be light; be human.

  7. Find someone you respect at this company. Buy them coffee. Tell them that you welcome their feedback and advice.

If you do it right, you won't want to leave this job and start a new one within two years.


Because you will have obtained knowledge and the respect of your colleagues (all great accomplishments).

#3: "Wear" Them More Creatively

If you're frustrated with your job, change it (preferably, from within).

Handle your core duties first -- take care of business as a foundation -- but once you build efficiencies to make that 40-hour job a 25-hour one, devote that free 15 hours to probing into the stuff you're more passionate about -- the stuff you wish was your full-time gig.

Once you build efficiencies to make that 40-hour job a 25-hour one, devote that free 15 hours to probing into the stuff you're more passionate about -- the stuff you wish was your full-time gig.

Grab lunch with people in different departments to understand their roles and gauge whether you'd like it there.

Solve problems. Listen for the biggest issues your team faces and spend some time thinking through potential solutions. Do some research. Put some thoughts together and share them with your peers. Get their take. Even if your thoughts are 40% irrelevant, they'll see that you're self-driven and willing to help. You're the first person your boss will think of when some "higher-up" floats the need for a "rock-star who can really drive" that special project.

Just like you would a new pair of new Nikes, wear the job enough to maximize the return on your [time] investment.

If the shoes suck for basketball, you try to run in them, right? If they put blisters on your feet after working out, pair them with jeans for Sunday brunch. If they begin to look worn, use them for yardwork. Look at your job similarly. Get what you can out of it before trashing it.

Don't just ask how it can serve you; how can it sharpen you?

Perhaps its discomforts are to toughen your feet up a bit. Perhaps its simply educating you on your next pair of shoes. You may not see what it's doing for you until later -- so just do your best and keep trying different uses of it.


Too many of us believe that our perfect job is just around the corner, but the large majority of people simply flee when things get tough, and it's a shame, because their dream job could be sitting right in their blind spot.

If we become too obsessed with finding that job somewhere else, we chase it so quickly and aggressively that the employer who can actually give it to us sees a huge red flag on our resume: "unreliable: will leave within a year."

Be different.

Stay for a bit. Settle in.

Give the shoes some time before declaring that they don't work for you.

Break 'em in, try them in different fashions, etc.

Who knows? They might turn into your dream pair with a little patience, persistence, and ingenuity.


What about you?

When it comes to your career, is your closet full of lightly-worn Nikesor have you turned just a few pairs into great ones?

What are the benefits and costs of your approach, and what is one change you could make to become more fulfilled in your career?


When I post, you'll know.

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