Only a few consistent practices are required for career success.
The same few mistakes lead to most career failures.
The American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay once said: “It’s not one damned thing after another. It’s the same damn thing, over and over.”
Most, especially those starting out in their career, believe the elixir to career success can be found in the numerous books offering “career advice” climbing up and down the Amazon rankings at any given time. Cracking the Tech Career: Insider Advice on Landing a Job at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or any Top Tech, by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, The Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professional, by James M. Citrin and What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, by Richard N. Bolles come to mind. These books, any book written by a so-called career expert, should be avoided… the career you are chasing resides in a new world order which career experts conveniently ignore.
Fact: Career success is primarily achieved on the foundation of the relationships you build and nurture. Read Catcher in the Rye. Again. Read the biographies of those you admire. Become a student of history; form an opinion of how the hell did we get to the very place in human history we now find ourselves in and why our relationship with work is so fractured and uncomfortable.
With the above in mind:
Accept these 2 facts: (1) Business is never personal. (2) Your image is everything. (People believe what they see.).
Your reputation (aka personal brand) will determine how far you go in your career. Cultivate it so your reputation propels you forward as oppose to holding you back.
Listen more than you talk.
Give people your full attention.
Know your limitations; we all have them.
Never gossip. Never listen to it.
Under promise and over deliver.
Own your mistakes immediately.
Master the art of presenting. In 2009 Warren Buffett told business students at Columbia University mastering the art of public speaking is the single greatest skill to boost one’s career (Billionaire Warren Buffett Says This 1 Skill Will Boost Your Career Value by 50 Percent – Inc., January 2017).
Never act on impulse. Nothing is what it first appears.
Do you really know your employer’s business? You only think you do.
Boss’s hate surprises. Tell your boss when trouble in on the horizon, not when it’s on the doorstep.
Focus on your results, not just your activities.
Speak up in meetings.
Always be friendly to your boss’s executive assistant. They spend more time with your boss than you do.
Visit continental Europe… they are ahead of the game.
Some problems fester when not addressed, other go away on their own. Learn the difference.
Learn to navigate office politics. Know the unofficial rules of your office and who the influencers are.
The moment you stop improving, you start failing. The Japanese live by kaizen, continual improvement. Make kaizen your daily practice.
Persist. Keep aiming high and failing. Become a master at failing. We all know the story of Edison failing 1,000 times to achieve the lightbulb.
Keep your skills relevant. Yes, I’m referring to being in a continuous learning mode.
Get to know your boss’s boss.
Learn to be comfortable with pressure.
Don’t say yes to everything.
Always keep foremost in your mind: The choices you are making right now are creating your future.
Leaders (current and wannabees):
Listen more than you talk. (worth repeating)
Never act on impulse. Nothing is what it first appears. (worth repeating)
Be a servant leader.
Set the example you want your employees to follow.
Employees are your indispensable asset. Employees come first, then customers and suppliers and then the owner(s)/stakeholders. No business can success without high-performing employees.
You work for your employees. Your job is to remove obstacles from their path, act on their wise suggestions and protect them from people above you.
Never tolerate a mediocre employee, regardless how long they have been with the company. Nothing drives down the morale of performing employees faster than having to carry the weight of non-performing employees.
Praise an employee one-on-one. Then later praise them again in front of their peers.
Take the blame.
Before searching for who made the mistake, look in the mirror. At least some of the fault lie with you.
Budget at least 25% more than you plan to spend. Unexpected costs are inevitable.
Never proceed with a worst case scenario. Know what you will do should everything go wrong.
John F. Kennedy: “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you don’t care who gets credit.”
Give recognition for efforts, not just results. (An employee putting effort on the right activities will eventually get the right results.)
Become adept with proactively managing conflict. Successful leaders don’t avoid issues, they face them.