I began working as a career planner in 1978,
and since then I've spent more than 25,000 hours in
individual consulting sessions. As with any profession,
many of the key problems and solutions keep repeating
and reappearing. In this article, I'll share 22 important
lessons I've learned:
You're like a small corporation: "You, Inc."
Even if you work for a big company, you're on your own. Companies
aren't people. They're things, often uncaring things. Companies
don't have feelings. Those who expect companies to "take
care of them", or to "do the right thing" are often disappointed,
especially when they feel they have strong friendships in the
company. No one cares more about your career than you do. Remember
that, and don't expect "the company" to take care of you.
- Certain people belong in certain kinds of jobs. You do
have special gifts that fit you for some, disqualify you for others.
Self knowledge is essential (but rare). Take time to
assess your skills,
temperament, aptitudes in depth. Everyoneeven senior
executivescould benefit from the help of a qualified career counselor.
- Careers are short-term. On any given day, your present
job can end, even if you own the company! Therefore, think
short term. Don't take your present opportunity for granted.
I define a consultant as "Someone who wakes up every morning
unemployed." You should feel the same way. Wake up every
morning feeling unemployedappreciate your joband figure out
what you're going to do next. It's always great to have a "Plan B."
- It's more important to be a "people person" than
to be an achievement-oriented person always winning at the cost
of others. People skills are more important than technical skills.
Even in technical jobs, you have to interface with someone.
Many of our outplacement clients are superstars who have been
fired. Often the average performers who are easier to get along
with last longer.
achievements (results, accomplishments) are your calling
card for the future. They will determine your marketability.
In marketing yourself, it's results that count. A baseball player
who gets a hit every time at bat is easier to market than one
who doesn't. It's that simple. Make sure you're contributing
something substantial and measurable every single day. Make sure
you keep a written record of your results in something like a
- If you lose your job, 80% of your marketing for a new position
is already done. That's right. Your reputation, results, accomplishments,
people skills, kindnesses, contributions, friendships are all
a matter of record. If you've been a contributor, if you've been
kind to others and easy-to-work-with, you'll be in demand. If
not, you won't. No consultant in the world can create friendship
for you if you haven't created it for yourself.
- Changing fields, industries, and functional specialties
is difficult, and more difficult the bigger the change. Hardwoods
manufacturers won't want to hire you if you've been in softwoods.
And vice versa. Choose your career path carefully. As management
expert Peter Drucker says, "The best way to predict the future
is to plan it."
- Salesman, Customer Service Representative, Teacher, Staff
Accountant, Technical Writer isn't a career. Accounts Payable
Clerk, Junior Accountant, Accountant, Controller, Chief Financial
Officer, Vice President of Finance is a career.
- People tend to earn what they deserve to earn.
- Love, happiness, friendship, time for oneself are just
as important as career. If career is everything in your life,
you could be disappointed if your career is sidetracked.
- If you're fired or laid off,
don't sue your former employer.
Ask yourself why you didn't see it coming; or if you did see
it coming, ask yourself why you didn't do something about it.
Figure out your part in causing the problem. Then set about
creating a new, better life for yourself. There is a better life
in your future.
- Don't ever let yourself be unemployed, even for a day.
Volunteer a few hours, work part-time for a temporary agency,
help a friend in his or her company. Do something to get yourself
out of the house. Unemployment is a mind-set you should avoid.
- Don't stay in a job you hate. Hating your job can kill you.
- Too much success can kill you. Notice I said "too
much success," not "too much stress." Learn when
enough is enough. Success itself can cause you problems.
If you think you're burning out, you may be right. Highly successful
people are the most subject to burnout of all. They demand the
most from themselvesand everyone around them.
- Success is difficult. If success were easy, everyone
would be successful.
- There's a special place for
everyone. You can create
the kind of future you want. Just remember:
- "Nothing good happens fast." I found this quote in the ad campaign for Paul Masson, the winemaker. I've found it to be a useful reminder, so useful I have the ad framed on my office wall.
- The workplace is fun and challenging. It can also be
cruel and heartless. It rewards effort and planning, but tends
to punish indifference and lack of preparation. Those who don't
manage their careerswho just let things happenoften end up
in painful, dead-end jobs and lifestyles.
- You are fully in control of your own future. No one can
deny you a happy life if you decide to plan it and work for it.
No one can stop you from becoming successful, but yourself.
- Your friendseven distant friendsare your best allies
in a job-search. No one will help you more than those who already
know your name. So make an extensive list of everyone you've
met in lifeand let them know your situation.
- Align yourself with winners. Hang around with winners.
Success really does rub off from others. There's no substitute
for "knowing the right people," and for "being
in the right place at the right time."
- It's never too late for a new beginning.
| Return to index of articles.