Like many parents, my mother and father tried as hard as they could to make me feel special. They instilled in me the belief that my future success in life was assured, and I left home believing that I could accomplish just about anything. My parents didn't know that they were doing me a great disservice. Of course you are special. Everyone is special. But in the job market, you have to compete with all those other special people. You will face disappointment. You will fail sometimes. In my view, believing otherwise — believing that the constraints and realities that apply to other people don't apply to you — is a poor philosophy upon which to build a life and career.
There's an oft-cited stereotype about the generation now entering the workforce — Generation Y, or the “Millennials”: They have a sense of entitlement. That may or may not be true; I'm not here to reinforce the stereotype. But I will say that, no matter which generation you're from, a sense of entitlement is not an advantage in looking for a job or moving into a new one. Instead, you need to be practical, realistic, and clear-headed about your abilities — and your competition — not just now but at every career stage. In this month's Tooling Up column, I'm going to describe some of the lessons and pitfalls I've learned about being “special.” I'll also make a few suggestions that you can take away to help you manage the transition from this innate sense of specialness to a more durable life philosophy for success.