Growing up in church, I remember singing this song as a child. It was quite popular with the children’s choir. Written by Ina D. Ogdon in 1913 the lyrics say, “Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, Do not wait to shed your light afar, To the many duties ever near you now be true, Brighten the corner where you are.” This simple chorus came to mind as I thought about how we shine in our work and life.
I first started training about twenty years ago when I worked for a Fortune 500 cosmetics company and conducted training programs for the people who sold our products in major department stores throughout the southeastern United States. Often after the program was over someone would wait until the room had cleared out and come up to ask me how they, too, could become a trainer. Most spoke of how they longed to do something they found more meaningful than retail sales and they thought training was something they would like. I always tried to encourage them as I had come from retail sales and the same job they were currently doing. I always started by telling them to work toward being the best at their current job. I remember clearly one woman responding with a “Humpf!”as though that was a dumbest thing she’d heard. What I knew was that her current job was the best place to prepare for her next job, whatever that would be. The retail sales position she’d obviously grown tired of was exactly where she could build the track record of high sales, learn the industry, build relationships with company representatives and store managers, and develop a reputation for being dependable, enthusiastic and promotable. With the right attitude and focus her current job could offer her the opportunities she was looking for. She clearly didn’t see it.
Still, as I speak for companies and conferences I’m often asked about how to get into speaking or writing. I’m always happy to offer advice. And it always involves starting right where you are. What can you learn from your current job? What can you learn about the industry? About business in general? About the skill you want to develop? About relationships with people? What contacts can you make? And more importantly, what can you learn about yourself? How can you shine right where you are?
I’m certainly not a proponent of staying in a job you don’t like or where you are not a good fit. Personally I have had many jobs in various industries over the years. Some I’ve loved, some I have loathed. In all I have learned. I get bored easily but have learned that even in jobs that I found dull if I focused on learning something I could make it a training ground for my next move, either with the company or in another one. Learning and looking for new skills to develop and new ways to use what I was already doing kept me interested and engaged until I figured out what that next move would be.
Wherever you want to go, whether it’s a promotion with your current company or a completely different industry or a different field, you have to start right where you are. Don’t postpone being your best. Start today by brightening the corner where you are!