In the (many) years since university, I’ve thought about what advice I’d give myself, if I could, on how to succeed in the working world.
The first thing I’d tell myself is that success looks an awful lot like hard work.
There are no two ways about it. Any company that paid you for simply showing up didn’t survive the Great Recession. Doing well is based on what you do.
The second thing I’d tell myself is that, despite what the movies portray, you rarely make it to the top and/or stay at the top by crawling over others. Don’t be a jerk.
No one likes a jerk – and at the end of the day success comes from cooperation and collaboration.
But more broadly, I’d say:
Be in the business of excellent client service.
For many of us, our colleagues are also our clients – our work impacts theirs. With that in mind:
- Be a giver – of your time, of your talents.
- Offer to help.
- Add value
Every day is an opportunity to help others. Serving others is a great way to build relationships and good will. And this usually pays off in ways that you don’t expect, with people helping you when you need it.
If the path doesn’t exist, trail blaze.
Nearly everyone goes through a period of frustrating, feeling like you aren’t “doing what you want to do.” For 20-somethings, that’s called the beginning of your career. For 40-somethings, that’s called a midlife crisis.
The good news is that it’s your life – find another way to do what you dream of doing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to find a new job (roaming from job to job is not a good thing).
A great way to do what you love is through volunteer service with a professional organization or community group – develop and/or exercise your skill set there. Plus this can pay dividends in new opportunities for you, either in your current job or in a new one.
It can be fun to get together with similarly employed colleagues and friends to commiserate about our work struggles. That’s ok – and it’s healthy, but keep your support circle small and intimate.
As a gainfully employed person, part of your responsibility is to communicate positively about your company (this is especially true for people in marketing, business development and communication roles, like me). If you can’t do this, then find a different job.
You might be surprised to learn that some of your networking buddies use your gripe sessions as an opportunity to gain competitive information about your firm’s weaknesses. (It is business after all.)
Never stop learning.
Read, read, read – and read some more.
Read today’s hot business book, as well as last year’s and the years’ before that. Follow industry blogs. Follow skill set-focused blogs. Read things that inspire you outside of the work realm. Keep your mind active and growing. Fresh information gives you fresh perspective and a framework for trying new things.
Bottom line: In our current world you’re really only as good as the knowledge you possess, the effort you make and the attitude you bring.
The good news is that you control all three.