Since 1978, I've spent more than 25,000 hours as a
career consultant listening to people talk about their work. My clients have included CEOs,
law firm partners, professional athletes, engineers, factory workersyou
name it. They've shared their highs and lows, and their innermost
secrets. They've taught me the dos and dont's of corporate politics
and given me the keys to success. Here are a few more ideas to
stimulate thinking about your career:
- Keep a weekly journal of your accomplishments, your "triples" and your "home runs," so you'll have them when it's time to update
your resume. The hardest part of resume writing is remembering ancient
history. So keep a written record of your results
in something like a
- Listen 80%, talk 20% Sometimes the best thing to say in a business
discussion is absolutely nothing.
- It's often a mistake to let work become 100% of your life. Extreme
work enthusiastsworkaholicsoverproduce and overachieve, but then
burn out, and some never recover. If you're working 80 hours per week,
every week, something may be wrong. Aristotle's Golden Mean, "Moderation in
all things," is not a bad idea.
- Career tests are like blood tests; they give you an accurate profile of you as a career person. One assessment, called a "360 review," gathers data about you both from you and from others you work with. These are valuable tools. Career unhappiness often comes from not knowing yourself well enough to choose the right work environment.
- Stay focused on your giftsyour geniusnot your mediocrities. Do
what you're best at. Sure, you can swim upstream in a raging river. But
wouldn't you be happier swimming downstream with the current?
- Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, said, "Do first
things first, and second things not at all." That's pretty good advice.
- Business results are important, but the people around you are important
too, especially today, in increasingly team-oriented environments. Spend
50% of your time getting results, and 50% of your time developing career-sustaining
relationships, both inside and outside your organization.
- Never be unemployed, even for a day. If you lose your job, volunteer
immediately to put your skills back to work, for a friend, for a consultant,
in a non-profit agencyanywhere. Seek part-time, project, or consulting
work as well as full-time employment, because part-time engagements tend
to expand and go full time, whether you want them to or not.
- We are all, always being interviewed. Every business encounter is
a "job interview," you just don't know it. Strangers are judging,
evaluating, and classifying you every moment; so act accordingly. Staying
15 minutes after work to help a colleague meet a harsh deadline could result
in a hundred thousand dollar job offer later.
- Think of your career as a public relations campaign and try to generate
friendships and relationships as much as business results and cash. You
have the work (task) and the income (money) and the company (environment)but
that isn't all. You have your personal career which supersedes your present
situation. Don't get so focused on the present priorities and crises that
you forget the bigger picture: chances are, you won't always be in your
present job, and you'll need friends. One successful jobhunter said, "I
create relationships; the relationships create the job offers."
- "Rule Number One: The boss is always right. Rule Number Two:
When the boss is wrong, refer to rule number one." This is a cliché,
but you seldom succeed by battling your bossno matter how wrong she is.
If the boss relationship isn't working, seek to fix it, transfer elsewhere,
or leave the company.
- High-success people are often slightly impatient. Turn your impatience
(or anger) into productive action. Push yourselfthat's goodbut don't
push others. They don't deserve it.
- My mother always said, "It's just as easy to get A's as
B's." She was wrong, of course, but I couldn't tell her that. (You
don't disagree with your mother.) She said it often enough, though, that
it finally sunk in. I've found that a small extra effort yields big results.
- Cavett Robert said, "People don't care how much you know until
they know how much you care." If you don't care about others, they'll
know it, and despite your wildest efforts to succeed, you'll never reach
even the beginning of your true potential.
- Don't suffer an abusive employer any more than you would suffer
an abusive spouse. If your job is hurting you, make plans to get out. You
deserve the very best.
- A good English class, or advertising copywriting class, could add
$20,000-$50,000 to your annual salary. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus
near your desk, and keep business writing shortgenerally, the shorter
the better. Cut five-page proposals to one page. Reduce one-page briefings
to two paragraphs. Reduce two paragraphs to six high-impact bullet statements.
In business, time is precious, so design your communications accordingly.
- Don't be a doctor because your father and grandfather were (I learned
this the hard waymy father and grandfather were physicians.) Don't
be a lawyer because it runs in your family. Don't choose a career only
because it pays well, and don't choose sales as a career to try to make
a quick buck.
- Paul Masson, the winemaker, said, "Nothing good happens fast."
Don't wait to look for a career planner until you're fired, short on cash,
burned out, and need a new high-paying job in less than a month. The best
time to plan your career is right now, today.
- Understate your personal power. Being powerful doesn't necessarily
mean overwhelming others. Sometimes power is expressed by waiting, being
silent, or letting others win. One of my college classmates was a black
belt in karatenot someone to be messed withbut he was kind and softspoken.
Woon Ki often said, "Don't mistake kindness for weakness."
- Practice success skills. In career, as in football, there are basic
skills that produce results. In football it's blocking and tackling. In
business it's showing up on time, finishing what you start, doing what
you say you're going to doand helping others win.
- Set reachable goals. It's a mistake to establish lofty goals, fail
to meet them, then beat yourself up for failing. That becomes a vicious
circle. It's better to establish a small reachable goal, reach it, and
then establish a second small reachable goal. That builds success momentum.
- Practice a stress-management routine. As the workplace speeds up,
stress increases, and if it isn't managed, the result is burnout. One solution
is to establish a weekly curriculum of stress-busting techniques, tailored
to your own personal values and interests. You could include reading, weekly
massage, personal quiet time, journaling, walking or exercising, personal
counselingor whatever works for you. The key is to find activities you
can do regularly, every week, without fail.
- Limit your success. Too much success can kill you.
I've seen driven, type-A managers who can't take a week offeven with a year's severance
in the bank. How smart is that? Ask yourself if the price you are paying
for success is worth the toll on your body, your health, and your personal
relationships. If the answer is no, re-evaluate your priorities and make
- Keep your resume ready-to-fire. Last month two senior HR managers
received job offers they "couldn't refuse." One is now the number
two HR executive in a $6 billion manufacturing company, the other will
soon build an HR infrastructure to take a fast-growth company public. Both
these executives created high-impact resumes months before they needed
- Get an Internet e-mail address. Services like Yahoo and Hotmail offer free e-mail,
and you'll be in touch with the world. Use a business-like address for career mailings,
nothing too cute or personal. A version of your real first and last names is useful.
Since logging onto e-mail, I've been pleasantly surprised by messages from friends in Paris and Viet
Namnot to mention countless friends in the U.S. Without e-mail, I might not have
heard from them.
- Read How to Argue and Win Every Time. (by attorney Jerry Spence,
$22.95, St. Martin's Press) Spence is great as a lawyer and commentator;
but he's even better as a writer! His book isn't about arguing, as in yelling
and screaming; it's about winning in life by expressing who and what you
really are. "The first trick of the winning argument is the trick
of abandoning trickery," Spence says. ". . . Credibility comes
out of the bonedeeper yet, out of the marrow." (Page 47)
- Force communication upward. We tend to assume that if the boss isn't
saying anything, everything is okay. And yet, nothing could be further
from the truth. Bosses are notoriously poor communicators. Your boss may
be preoccupied and might appreciate your taking the initiative to keep
things on track. Here are five useful boss-questions:
a) Am I meeting your expectations? b) Am I focusing on the projects most important
to you? c) Are you getting the kind of feedback you need? d) Would you like more
documentation or reports from me? e) How could I make your job easier?
- Say thank you. In April I drove to Ft. Collins to visit two college
professors I hadn't seen in 30 years. Both taught me to think critically,
to write, and to appreciate words. They've had a big impact on my life,
and I told them so. I had lunch with one, then met the other in his officethe same office he had 30 years earlier! I gave each a heartfelt thank you letter,
and they were grateful, because most students leave and never return. Driving
home I felt uplifted in a way I cannot easily describe.
- Find mentors everywhere. As companies reduce headcount, pile on
the work, and demand more productivity, the notion of having a mentoran
angel who guides you through your careermay be obsolete. What works now
is to develop mentors everywhere. Reach out to anyone who might offer advice
or ideas. Have a legal question? Call the lawyer you met in your computer
class. Worried about negotiating a raise? Ask a co-worker to describe
the approach they took. We are all co-mentors; we need each other.
Reach out! Don't feel you have to go it alone.
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