Question: What is a successful career to you?
I know you have an idea. Want to know mine? A successful career is a we doing the best we can to bring value to other people, in a particular field, hopefully without rubbing many the wrong way, and at the end of it, we feel, yes that's all I wanted to do in this short life of mine, and a very small part of us hoping some people along the way would have said, 'yes, that one was okay'.
1. Take initiatives
Do stuff (useful for the employer, starting with the most important task- getting more business) that no one else is doing. Contribute to useful stuff that others are doing.
At the back of your mind, always calculate the odds of success of the initiative and how you might come out in front of the bosses. Be prepared to cut your losses and move on to another project whenever an initiative is no longer worth pursuing. Ruthlessness and initiatives go on quite well with each other.
2. Network smartly
Create network/s of people who can be useful with expert knowledge, who are often unique in some aspect, and do it on a constant basis. You don't need to start panic, not knowing who to call, if you already know people who might help. People you have interacted with. People who 'owe' you a favor, perhaps. These people may include people in your present company, from past jobs, or you have crossed paths while doing other things in life, or you have deliberately sought them out and made friends (this is smart), knowing you may need them one day. For example, if you want to be a lawyer, make friends with the people in law enforcement area and in the courts, they say.
3. Manage yourself at work
Always focus on the goal, which is, as long as you are doing useful stuff for the employer (whoever is paying the bill), as long as you bring value, you are on the right path. Also, focus on whether your career goals and values are in alignment with what you are doing right now.
Be organized. Use time savers without compromising on quality of work. Delegate stuff. All this is common sense stuff. Never shirk from the accountability and responsibility inherent with every job.
4. Get the big picture
Every thing you do at work, every task, every project, every initiative, and of course every difficult thing at work, look at all these objectively. Look at all this also from the point of view of customers, competitors, co-workers and the bosses. Now you are getting a big picture. See where you are and where things in this bigger whole that is your workplace.
This means you give and take feedback from your colleagues. This means you understand the customer's needs and motivations. This means you have benchmarked things with the top competitors in the industry. This means you know what the are visions of future and goals of your bosses and your company.
Most importantly, perhaps, after you have a general big idea of everything, you also look outside the box. Look at things from an outsider's perspective and if the outsider is an expert, albeit in a different field, you may turn up with different and more valuable solutions for the company. This is your cutting edge and you are bringing it in, you the star.
5. Follow before you get followers
Great leaders often start by learning from their bosses (or from outside influences- Gandhi started by learning from Tolstoy, though he never met him). Set aside your ego and your hang ups. Learn from your bosses. Help them succeed at their goals and their visions. Cooperate. Be and be seen as part of the solution.
Learn to persuasively influence your bosses. Don't come off as a whiner. (Counterpoint: if you see something wrong, legally or ethically, be prepared to take it up with 'right' people)
Try to follow the chain of command while you do your magic, as much as you can. You don't need to be seen as one who steps too much over others' toes, ignoring people and so on. Sometimes, all this may be the right thing to do, but real life isn't like the movies, people.
6. Lead people to their greater futures (not just yours)
The most important role of a leader is to know where the future lies for all, and then influencing and taking everyone to that future. A good leader is a champion at getting all to achieve the common goals. This is the basis of all good leadership. That is what the writer feels, and just writing this one realized what this meant and one felt good.
Good leaders know their stuff, if they don't they get help from people who do. Good leaders get people to go with them when they convince others that it is in their best interests. In other words, good leaders are great at people skills. Good leaders also make sure that everyone gets a chance to contribute meaningfully, and afterwards they give credit to all who worked, never taking all the credit themselves.
Good leaders provide the initial and sustaining momentum. When you know where the company has to be, first you try to get others /bosses to do what is need to be done, and if things are moving slowly, you need to step, take charge and lead them.
7. Creating and working in productive and effective teams
Even if you work best when left alone, you can't avoid teams in a work setup.
People who are good at making teams work share the credit with others, do everything to kae sure the team has all it needs to get the job done, proactively dealings with problems and conflicts, even helping sort out their own problems. They also make sure to know who work best in a group setting and who are best when left alone.
Things a good team leader does:
- Knows the team's overall mission statement and how the success will be evaluated
- Set out exactly what is expected from each member and how they will be evaluated
- Makes sure all tasks are done on schedule and within budget.
- Lead by example: Do their share of the work, look at how others are faring, who need help etc.
- Keep an eye on overall team operations, and work in to assist
- Closely monitor the team’s mood, participation level and general enthusiasm pools, making changes as required.
- Keep things light and active: Using humor and forbearance to keep everyone easy at the job. The best leaders are very forgiving.
- Knowing how to grease the wheels: They know who to please ('give and take'), chat up, or even convince with force, within and outside the company, to get obstacles out of way and get on with the job. These organizational savvy leaders also try to have high level support or mentors with relevant experience who will give support or throw some light on the job at hand. It helps that these leaders have something valuable to trade- namely, their own expertise at some stuff.
9. Being able to effectively influence the right audience presentations, speeches and email/letters
You should compliment your sound technical skills with solid presentation/speaking/writing skills. A good leader not only knows the way, she/he also knows how to influence the right people when needed. Otherwise, you are like a sage on a mountain who doesn't come down and convince people in the valley a flood is coming and they should move.
Fortunately, you can work on and hone these public presentation skills.
The basics of any public presentation are simple, common sense stuff. Five main points in brief:
1. Know your audience.
2. Customize your message relevant to that audience.
3. Make your message interesting.
4. Deliver the message in the language of the audience: Non-technical, jargon-free, relevant funny stories, vivid imagery (of the problem, and the solution)
5. Use presentation equipment and props to enhance the message, without diluting the effectiveness of the message.
10. Work on being better everyday (and have a light heart)
We are not born with all these good qualities. We learn them. We practice them. We know it takes time for the learning to become habit, an integral part of our day-to-day working life. We just need need to keep an enthusiastic heart and an open mind to learn and improve all the time, our goal showing the way. This tenth way is the tonic that will sustain us.
Try not to take things too seriously. That is the unofficial motto of this guide. Life was there before, it will be there after you. Do your stuff and move on. That's also Camus in short for you all.
(Source:'How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed' by Robert E. Kelley)
Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life. Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.