By: Dr. Kathleen Begley
President, Write Company Plus
Family connections. Good looks. Ivy League educations. Sure, they all help getting you started on a fabulous career. But do they ensure your future? Probably not. According to many experts, the road to success depends on your taking actions like these:
- Recognize the limits of technical knowledge. No matter how many advanced degrees you have in information technology or chemical engineering, they won’t compensate for a lack of interpersonal skills. Work hard to develop your speaking and writing ability. Developing empathy for others is a good idea, too.
- Get a master’s in business administration (MBA). Many organizations will pay for your graduate degree. Even if they don’t, enroll in a program that proves to high-level executives that you’re profoundly interested in learning the latest and best management strategies.
- Ask for what you want. Your manager can’t guess that one of your goals is to become part of a cross-functional team studying reorganization and reengineering of your corporation. Open your mouth.
- Promote your accomplishments. Talented employees who fail to blow their own horns are like trees falling in the forest with no one around. Is there sound? Is there achievement? It’s doubtful.
- Overcome fear of public speaking. According to the Gallup Poll, the majority of individuals become wildly nervous just thinking about presenting their ideas while standing in front of an audience. Simple advice: get over it. Join Toastmasters, an international club dedicated to helping people speak confidently.
- Write your way to the top. Start by publishing an article in your company newsletter. Expand your file of clippings by submitting to trade magazines. Who knows – you may even have a book inside you. Use published business leaders such as Carly Fiorini and Cathy Black as inspiration.
- Focus during one-on-one conversations. Most well-known first-class communicators, such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the late U.S. Ambassador to France Pamela Harriman, were known for making the person they were talking to feel like the only human being in the world. It’s a powerful lesson.
- Maintain a positive attitude. It’s easy to be cheerful when things are going well. The test is keeping upbeat when you encounter the inevitable failures and disappointments of life, no matter what your station.
- Help others succeed. You probably already realize that part of your job is making your boss look good. But glance also in the other direction. Truly successful people try to help individuals from all walks of life, including their garbage collectors and restaurant servers.
- Embrace rather than resist change. It’s inevitable. Throughout the 21st century, the highest achievers will be those who accept this modern truth. Digging in your heels once too often may dig the grave of your career.
- Keep up in your field. Once you’re out of college for a few years, your area of study has developed a new body of knowledge. Read professional journals to stay current – and marketable.
- Socialize outside of work. Networking is the source of most dramatic career leaps. Instead of feeling discouraged by this fact, create a new mantra: it’s not whom you know, but whom you make yourself known to.
- Maintain honesty and integrity. Nothing is worth selling your soul down the river. Learn how to convey bad news positively, yet honestly. Yes, it can be done.
- Energize yourself. To be frank, anybody can be successful in the short term. The real challenge is motivating yourself month after month, year after year, decade after decade.
- Balance work and leisure. Workaholics may look productive now – but they eventually crash and burn. Pursuits such as swimming, golfing, reading, boating, and movie-going help you maintain permanent mental health.