When winging it just won’t cut it

Be honest with yourself. How many times have you found yourself getting ready for an exam or another significant activity and you get to a crucial point where you have to accept that you are unprepared? Like really unprepared.

At that moment of realisation, you have two options:

a) Break down in a heap, or;

b) Toughen up, break through and say “F**k it, I’ll just wing it”.

So you do … and if luck is on your side – despite feeling like it was all going to be a disaster – it turns out alright: you get 60% instead of failing. You’re stoked! Winging it actually works! High Five You.

But a warning: if you want to succeed in life, do not fall into the dangerous habit of winging important career and life moments.

Yes … there are times when winging it in some situations is perfectly acceptable (60% on your accounting exam may be more than good enough – well unless you plan on becoming an accountant).

You need to be honest with yourself and realise that when it comes to your career … winging it and taking things to 60% is often not enough. 60% will not make you stand out of the crowd.

Consider these 3 examples and which side of the fence you want to fall on …

1 //
 The Interview

Two candidates spend hours applying for their dream job. Their cover letters are perfect, their CV’s are perfect, their application answers were clear and concise. On paper they both look like amazing candidates, so they are called in for an interview.

Peter the Prepared: Peter spends time reading through the company website, their social pages and anything else relevant he can find. He makes sure he is on top of the latest industry happenings and has mapped out for himself what makes him the ideal candidate for the role so that he can clearly communicate this during the interview. He is genuinely ready.

Wayne the Wing-it Man: Wayne was going to spend the day before the interview preparing but couldn’t resist when the boys rang up last minute to go see a movie. So Wayne had a quick glance over the website the morning before the interview and he thinks it’s okay – he can wing it – he did quite a bit of research when applying anyway.

The Outcome: Whilst there was nothing wrong with Wayne’s interview, he was definitely missing Peter’s spark. Peter was able to discuss the business and showed a genuine passion for the industry. Peter progressed to the 2nd round interview whilst Wayne did not.

2 //
 The Networking Event

Wendy and Patricia both started their jobs six months ago. Things have been going great and for the first time their bosses are sending them alone to an important networking event to get to know some key people in the industry.

Perfectly Prepared Patricia: Patricia understands how important this event is. Although she secretly doesn’t love networking, she does know it is an important part of the role and
she wants to make sure she comes across well. She makes sure she sets aside a couple of hours before the event to prepare – she spends time looking up some of the speakers presenting on the night as well as ensuring she is on top of the news and other industry happenings. She has her business cards in a holder in her pocket and a pen and notepad to write down any sneaky notes she might find useful.

Wing-it Wendy: Wendy was swamped at work and when she looked at her schedule she decided that she didn’t really need to do any prep for the networking events – so yes – it was fine to accept a meeting in lieu of prep time. After all, Wendy has been working for a while now and what prep do you really need to do to have some drinks and meet people?

The Outcome: Whilst Wendy was right, she didn’t have to do too much prep to have some drinks with people – she had also forgotten her business cards and didn’t have too much to say about some of the latest news that everyone seemed to be talking about (she can’t even remember when she last read the newspaper). On the other hand – Patricia found herself having many engaging conversations and she was even invited to another industry lunch next week! Patricia’s biggest challenge was dealing with all the LinkedIn requests she received the next morning.


3 // The Performance Review

Twelve months after landing their ideal jobs, it’s time for Paul and Wallace to have their first performance review. Both of them feel they have been an incredible asset to the company after the last 12 months and they are each hoping for a promotion and pay rise.

Prep-Man Paul: Paul desperately wants the promotion he heard is on the table, because he feels it would be the next natural jump in his career. He takes the time to look over everything he has done over the last 12 months, finding particular examples of where he went above and beyond. But more than just effort, he finds examples where his effort has translated into tangible results for the company. He also identifies how he has developed over the past 12 months and how he would be the ideal candidate for the promotion. He goes into his performance review ready to sell himself into the role.

Wallace Likes to Wing It: Wallace also desperately wants the promotion. He has worked just as hard as Paul over the past 12 months and achieved some outstanding results. But Wallace doesn’t want to brag and feels his Manager already knows what he has achieved. He thinks he should be able to walk into a performance review and simply have an honest chat.

The Outcome: Both Wallace and Paul had great perfomance reviews and they were commended for their excellent work over the past 12 months. However, their Manager had only one promotion and payrise to award. Going into the reviews she was actually quite undecided on who would get the promotion, however, Paul’s preparation had allowed him to point out so many excellent reasons why he was the best candidate, in the end there could only be one winner. Sorry Wallace.


>> The moral of the story

3 stories, 6 characters and some rather obvious outcomes. But let’s get real: all too often we find ourselves in Wayne, Wendy and Wallace’s shoes and choose to simply wing it. And whilst it may work out okay – if you really want to get ahead, winging it just won’t cut it. Or as someone wise once told me – when in doubt, remember the 6 Ps …

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!