I had lunch last week with a high-ranking business woman for a fortune 500 company. Considering I’ve been on this quest to outline the tenets of success in a practical manner I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask her what tips she would give to someone early in their career.
Without hesitation she jumped right into four keys to her professional climb:
Know your business
Never get complacent with your industry or your position. In most cases, the knowledge you hold now is not good enough to stand the test of time. Thus, you must keep working to stay on top of what’s new and what’s coming down the pipeline. This is a key differentiators, especially early in a professional career, as many entry level associates are content to be gainfully employed.
Pick Careers/Companies Carefully
Again, early in your career it is easy to run after the job that offers the most money. In the words of another great man, “Money answers all things.” To some extent this is true, however, in the case of a life-long career this may not be the case. If you are going to be an entrepreneur then you’ll probably start with a budget of zero. Yet, if you have the discipline, working for yourself could be the best choice you’ve ever made.
If you are going to work for a company you have to do your homework. If you find a company that aligns with your values and produces a product that you 100% believe in, then you’ll have an easy time giving that organization your all. Believing in the vision, product(s) and the culture are essential for a long career without ten or fifteen restarts.
If everyone hates to be around you at the office, it’s time to check your attitude. We’ve all heard at least one anecdote about a great thinker with great skills who drove coworkers crazy. Someway, somehow many of the brightest and best lack the “people skills” to advance beyond an entry-level position.
In short, it is not enough to be a high flying associate with stellar numbers. You must also have the interpersonal savvy to interact with internal and external contacts. If not, you may find that you are dispensable once someone with soft-skills joins the organization. Why? People have to buy you before they ever buy the product you’re selling.
Be willing to move
This is where I got stumped. She shared how she lived in seven states still working for the same organization. I glazed over a bit and in a couple of seconds drifted off into Charles Dickens…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Much is made of moving in today’s attempts to climb the corporate ladder. As more and more companies extend to have a global reach, it is easy to understand why new opportunities birth in various locations. For any organization to grow organically there must be trailblazers willing to pick-up and move. Yet, I’m left pondering,
“Should the trailblazer be me?”
My point is simple. Without all of the implications of “right and wrong” I want to point out that the journey towards success will be however you determine it in your mind. Traveling the seven seas may be the path for you. If so, go get your passport, get a credit card with travel rewards, and invest in sturdy (yet, stylish) luggage. Take pictures. Your conquest and destination will be the thing of legend.
However, don’t assume that being in one place cannot produce a life and career that is just as rewarding. I’ve learned from listening that sometimes the greatest journeys are the ones where your feet have walked the same path so frequently that you can do it with your eyes closed. Sometimes the greatest journeys are not where you serve millions but you serve the same handful of faces for decades… to the point where you are a fixture, a beacon of light, a staple of expectations for others to rise to.
Whatever the path, outline in your heart what destination you hope to reach and this will be a key indicator as to which journey will be greatest for YOU.