There are countless books that explain how one can achieve success in business. You go to any bookstore, website, or magazine and you’ll find interviews, articles, advice, personal stories, lists, steps, and action items that show you how you can achieve great success in your own life. It can be overwhelming to think about how many different ways you can go about finding success within your own career. The thing is – what works for one person may not work for you. The opportunities, the experiences, the advantages, the privileges, and luck afforded to one person are rarely replicable and virtually impossible to copy and paste into one’s own life.
That is why I write this blog with the utmost humility, and look to simply give the top five pieces of advice that seem to be universally present in much of the literature out there – the self-help books if you will. Here I have coupled that advice with that of my own personal experience and that of colleagues and other professionals I have interacted with; established, stable, and happy individuals who seem to have found the right rhythm in life to carry the cadence of their own tune, uninterrupted by the usual difficulties we all face in our lives.
So, here goes…
Listen to your subconscious, it will never fail you.
You’ve heard this so many times – follow your passion. It’s so cliché and trite that it fails to inspire people because they don’t seem to think that they will ever uncover the passions of their own life, let alone in their career. It doesn’t necessarily translate into easy steps so people don’t know where to start. I argue that if you need to work to find your passion, it’s probably not your passion.
Passion derives naturally and out of activities, wants, and habits that our subconscious strives for. For me, writing, reading, practicing math, drawing on napkins, and visualizing bridges in my head were pass-times that quickly developed into passions. These are what you’re looking for. This is what will evolve into a career.
Get as many different experiences at work as you can.
People appreciate well-roundedness. Several directors I’ve spoken to have claimed – no, asserted – the only reason they have the positions they do now is because they jumped at new opportunities and functions that totally changed their daily routines. They started working with different products, different parts of the value chain, different customers, and different problems. They then drew on those experiences later in interviews to demonstrate initiative, their ability to learn and retain new material efficiently, and their intuition to identify needs within an organization.
Incorporate global experiences into your career path.
The world is not flat. We all know that. We are all so connected and interdependent on one another that having the experience of seeing your business in a different country, from a different vantage point will only give you a clearer picture of what your organization does and stands for.
There is so much to be said about someone who can pick up and move to a different country, and learn the local culture, customers, and pain points of a company in a different region of the world. Not only is it advantageous to the employee, but the company benefits as well. People who are well-versed in international business – and no, I don’t mean hopping on a video conference call with someone sitting in a different country, I mean really immersing yourself in the operations of a business outside of your local territory – are much more fundamental to their organization. Do yourself the favor and give yourself that global perspective. Your company, and career, will thank you.
Take initiative: be the manager of your own career.
It’s easy to get lost in the daily activities and tasks that are required of us at work. But, we shouldn’t lose sight of our long-term goals and what types of opportunities, experiences, and challenges we want to engage in throughout our career. We get a false sense of security when we know that companies provide career mentors, coaches, and the like – as if these types of resources will provide us with the answers that we’re still digging up deep within ourselves.
It’s your job to ask for additional things to be learned, new trainings to take part in, and new responsibilities that interest you. It’s easier said than done, I know, but if you get in the habit of asking for these types of workplace additives, conversations with managers and other leadership members become much more dynamic – because once you begin to figure out what it is that you really want, the resources and opportunities, you’ll realize, are all around you. You should consistently be thinking about what it is you want out of your career and never stop working to get yourself there.
Better your best constantly.
Resting on your laurels can be an easy and dangerous practice. Those who I’ve spoken to can’t seem to remember what their last award was because they’re always focusing on new and on-going achievements they hope to make. Be in constant competition with yourself. There’s always a new way to outshine what work you’ve already done!