Before we begin, you may be asking what does ‘career success’ even look like? The reality is that career success looks different to everyone. You may measure success in terms of the size of your salary, how large your team is, how far up the corporate ladder you have climbed or even finding a great work-life balance. One common trait of career success, though, is that it can remain annoyingly elusive to many. If you’ve experienced watching your peers being continually promoted ahead of you, or if you’ve felt like you are not being recognised for your contributions, I’m sure you agree that it sucks big time!
It’s tempting to look for the ‘silver bullet’, the ‘secret sauce’, the one thing that, if implemented, will transform your career. The reality is that there is no one thing…success takes persistent work!
Courtney Templin, co-author of Manager 3.0: A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management, suggests that you should view the early stages of your career as “gathering rocket fuel.” The rocket fuel is your insurance and will propel you over hurdles that inevitably arise. So what, from a career perspective, counts as rocket fuel? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Develop a passion for your own personal development
Some employers are smart and invest heavily in their people. If you work for a company like this, you have hit the proverbial jackpot, so seize every opportunity made available to you. Don’t just rock up to training courses with a poor attitude, in a state of “reluctant compliance”, we see this often in corporate land and can’t believe it. You will always get something out of a training program, even if it is a lesson in how NOT to engage your audience!
In addition to anything your employer organises, be diligent in seeking out external opportunities for personal growth. Additional skills can be learnt by studying or even volunteering in not-for-profit organisations.
If you are self-employed, it sometimes feels harder to take time out, but it is essential to keep expanding your horizons and developing your skill set. Your business will benefit from the fresh ideas and input.
2. Be persistent in your pursuit of success
If you haven’t already read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers – The Story of Success”, please do so. He mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which is his belief that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. That translates to 8 hours a day, 365 days a year, for over 3 years!
He goes on to say, “Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for 22 minutes, to make sense of something most people would give up on after 30 seconds.”
If you feel like your technical skills are letting you down, keep working on them. If you are finding it challenging to manage your team, be persistent in finding ways to engage them. Become known as a solution provider rather than a problem identifier within your organisation.
Amidst all of this hard work and persistence, though it is important to keep your eye on the prize, develop a career plan and reassess your progress from time to time. Finding a mentor will also help you to stay on track.
3. Become a great communicator and ask for what you want
Become committed to communication mastery. How can you possibly get what you want if you can’t communicate it effectively?
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts
Asking for what we want is a skill, which requires clear communication, high engagement and preferably low attachment. In other words, it requires a delicate combination of being fearlessly articulate, consciously aware of how and when to ask, and not being so attached to the outcome that emotions take over.
Becoming a great communicator also involves becoming comfortable with selling yourself! Many people feel that that would rather stay humble and wait until they are noticed – this doesn’t always work (check out our recent blog on how to self promote without sounding obnoxious).
Start paying close attention to the language you use. Are you using phrases like:
“I hope my presentation will be helpful for you.” or “Maybe I could work on one of the larger projects soon, when I have more experience.”
This is not the language a confident leader would use – don’t sell yourself short. Adopt the posture and language of someone who is several leadership levels above you and watch the change in the way people respond to you.
Finally, seek constant feedback. Not in the sense that you are looking for approval or a pat on the back. Seek genuine honest feedback about the things that you do well and the things that you don’t do so well. Most people are comfortable receiving positive feedback and shy away from the negative.
To learn how you can tell better stories to impact your career, download our storytelling ebook. It will give you the tips and tricks you need to take your skills up a notch.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional development with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.
Alison Carter is a facilitator and coach at The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd, a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant who has spent over 15 years in senior financial and communication roles. She now loves to share her passion for the design and delivery of effective and engaging communications.