When my mother told my brothers and me to “Get out there and play in the traffic!” the implication was that she was so annoyed with us that she wanted us to play among the cars and trucks in the hopes that we would get run over. We never did run around among the cars and trucks and we think she was kidding, but her advice made our behavior change. The advice, or in this case, the admonition, stuck. Get out there in traffic is advice I give today, and it is not about cars.
Traffic, with a capital T, is now what careers and work are all about. When talking about traffic it’s not about being stuck in traffic, it’s about driving traffic and being out and about, networking.
Driving traffic is one measure of your competency and a measure of your “platform”. Your platform is what you have created about yourself, your brand, based on the traffic you generate. The more traffic, the bigger the platform and the more potential employers may notice you as an expert in something or have something to say besides what you had for dinner. The ability to drive traffic can lead to that job you want. So, as Mom said, “Go play in the traffic” and if there is no traffic, you need to generate some.
Being “out in traffic” can lead to new opportunities, new colleagues, new learning…all the things you may want but can’t quite find. In short, never miss a chance to network, to have lunch, to buy a coffee, to build a new relationship so that people know you are competent and cool.
One guy I know frequented the deli downstairs and every day ordered a turkey sandwich on wheat. He then went back to his cubicle and continued to work, all the time thinking he would get ahead by not wasting time on lunch. The guy in the cubicle next to the turkey sandwich guy went out to lunch every day with colleagues and co-workers and was promoted faster. You have to be out in traffic to learn more about the industry, your job, the market and the new kinds of sushi.
Traffic doesn’t come to you, it takes some effort to get out there. And the merge into it in the beginning may not be easy. One thing is certain though, if you are not out in traffic, you are being left behind.
My Mom’s advice stuck. It’s just the meaning has changed. I now tell people to “Get out there and play in the traffic!”