Barilla’s pasta gets creative. Will you be as creative for your career “pasta”?!

barilla2-570x279Barilla.  A family-owned company for 135 years that brings Italian delights such as pasta and sauces to the American consumer.  Its variety of pastas has nutritious additions such as pasta infused with vegetables, white fiber, and whole grains.  You really can expect more from your pasta.

Barilla also expects more from you. The Wall Street Journal, “Barilla Makes U.S. Pasta Push” on August 30, 2012, we learn that Americans could be eating more pasta in relationship to other countries.  Americans ate an average of 19.4 pounds of pasta per person in 2011, compared to 57.3 pounds for Italians and 28.7 pounds for Venezuelans, according to the Italian Association of Pasta Industries.

So how will Barilla increase brand awareness and get America to eat more carbs? By making its own restaurants!  Barilla is going to take dry pasta in a box and create unique dishes that will bring Italian cuisine to you.  Mama Mia!  I get hungry just writing about it.

Barilla inspires us to get creative.  In Barilla’s case, it is finding new ways to consume its pasta.  In your case, it is about opportunities to shine for your customers (e.g., supervisors, colleagues, vendors, clients, future employers) to consume your “career pasta” in new and different ways. Barilla wants to give you a fresh experience so you get excited about what is inside its box.  Define what is inside your box (e.g. pasta, sauces) that everyone knows and enjoys, and then develop your “career pasta” on a beautiful platter with new sides.  In doing so, you remain ever more relevant to your past/current/future customers, superiors, colleagues, clients and vendors.  Who knows, it might even set you up for a promotion, a new career move or more interesting projects!

  • Self- Awareness Pasta Through Probing, Structured Feedback – We all love a compliment on our strengths.  If you were pasta on the grocery shelf, what aspects of your strengths are most relevant to your being purchased? Whole grain pasta did not exist 10 years, yet today is in line with what customers expect. Tastes have evolved and pasta companies delivered new products based on their expectation.  How will your customers’ tastes evolve?  Speak with your superiors, colleagues, vendors and clients to get a sense of what you are doing well.  It is a good baseline.  After defining what you are doing well, ensure those strengths are aligned with your team’s, division’s and organization’s goals for the year.  Are there areas you can add to become even more relevant? You want to ensure everyone will continue to buy your current pasta.
    • Your career takeaway is to have more thorough career development sessions with your supervisor on a monthly basis, so that you can ask for work that plays to your strengths.  If your supervisor does not care about your career development, then find someone who can mentor/develop you in the organization.  Frequent informal career discussion can translate into “exceeds” and “greatly exceeds expectations” on your formal performance reviews.
  • Observe Market Patterns – Your market always can give great clues on what is important. As you are digesting your daily news, ask yourself the following:
    • Where might the market be in 6 months?
    • Are my peers adding new competencies to their “tool kits”?
    • How will this new market intelligence impact my work?
    • Your career takeaway is to become a gatherer and interpreter of industry intelligence. Ensure you are reading relevant industry journals and summarizing key news that is relevant not only to your work, but the work of your boss. Additionally, if there is a local industry association, it would be make sense to begin participating in events.  As your understanding of particular subjects increase, you might even take a leadership role in one of these organizations.  Remember always to frame what you are doing in these organizations as a benefit to your employer.  Keep a running file of accomplishments.
  • Observe Organizational Patterns – As the organization evolves, there will be a need for different types of work to be completed. New skills sets will be needed to complete this work. Definitions of leadership, management and technical skills will shift. It would make sense to be in tune with your leadership and direct supervisor on what skill sets are more valued to the organization.  By understanding what is valued in the organization, you can have a better understanding of where you should be growing (e.g., enhancing areas of your current skill set and developing complementary skills).
    • Your career takeaway is to learn a new skill or set of skills.  Be strategic, as these skills should be valued by your supervisor and employer.  Make sure to carve out time for a class (in-person or online), webinar or conference.