I’m often asked “What’s the best thing to do to build a successful career?”, “How do I make sure I advance my career?” and similar questions.
There is no magic bullet. No single answer. There are however common treads that if all well done, may add up to a great, successful career.
First, lets get clear on “success”. It means something different to everyone. There is no one grand definition or path to it. Thus, step one in building a successful career is to get clear on how you define it.
- Some high-level terminal title (think "CEO")?
- Being a master craftsman working in your own individual shop, earning enough money to keep you and your family safe and secure?
- Being a reliable member of a medical staff at a center serving remote, underserved people?- - Leading the IT function for a complex, global, commercial firm?Other?
This done, action and attention are required in three key areas:
Always do a great job at the job you are in. This is the baseline for everything else. It provides experience. It builds your reputation and your credibility. Being known as the one who ‘gets it done’ is critical.
Equally critical is the manner in which you do the work. Being a high producing jerk is a no-go. People will not want to work with you – no matter how many goals you knock down. If you can’t get along with people (peers, managers, employees, customers, suppliers, etc.) your success will be limited.
Continually improve. Learn more about the breadth and depth of your job. Practice, practice, practice. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to constructive criticism. Perform your own after-action-reviews. Apply what you learn so you can do better tomorrow than you did today.
Career advancement almost always means learning and applying something new. Larger, more senior roles generally include broader, deeper, more complex scopes of responsibility. If you aspire to these, it’s important that you understand these duties and take action to become familiar with/skilled at these.
Even if your aspiration is more ‘individual’ and not tied to the typical ‘upward progression’ definition of career success, "NEWwork" is important. Tools, technologies, techniques, markets and so many other factors evolve over time. Keeping up with these advancements is deeply valuable to optimizing your long-term success.
No one is an island. No matter the career/job, we all impact and are impacted by others. Even the most reclusive-sounding careers have some interaction with others. Perhaps only for acquiring supplies. Perhaps only as customers who buy our goods. BUT – we all have and need some degree of "NETwork".
Without "NETwork", great "NOWwork" and "NEWwork" goes un-noticed. The good word of your good works goes unshared. You get caught up in a loop of perpetual effort with little/no career progress.
"Networking" can be challenging for people. Some just don’t like it. Some aren’t sure how to do it. Some are so focused on the "NOW" & "NEW", that they just don’t focus on it. Regardless of reason, if "NETworking" is not addressed, career success will not be optimized.
There are myriad great resources available at the click of your mouse to help address all these areas.
The bottom line is that all three are important and career success is optimized when you attend to and take action in each.
Copyright 2019 William E. Kieffer