Building a successful career boils down to having a vision of where you want to end up and having a strategy to get there.
Landing a great job is not simple or a onetime task, rather it is a process of deliberate and purposeful activities over your entire life leading to a successful career. These activities are like the threads you use to weave the tapestry that is called your career. The beauty and complexity of the final tapestry you weave is more in your control than you might think. These activities and habits will allow you to approach your career systematically and will make a difference between a successful career and simply getting a job. The best place and time to start is here and now. Doing the best you can and driving notable results in your current job is always the most important. There are many other things you need to be doing to enable long-term career success.
The following seven tips can help you build and accelerate your career successfully.
- Trust, reliability and consistency are critical – This is the foundation. These qualities are of utmost importance and need to be built along the way. Your actions will shape the perceptions of your network and colleagues. They should consistently reflect trust, reliability and confidence and allow you to become a person people love to work with, be it customers, partners, peers, supervisors or juniors. You should strive to be regarded as a sought after expert and as someone that adds value in interactions, as a trusted and reliable go-to person in your function and industry.
- Opportunity trumps money – When making career decisions, give more weight to ones that give you opportunities to drive outstanding results and/or learn and grow exponentially. With less emphasis on money, your career growth will depend on these two areas: your track record and skill set. Enhancing these two will help you achieve a better title and more money, allowing you to sustain it. The right opportunity is where you can be your best and reap outstanding results. Start with your current job, you should deliver performance and results that get you noticed.
- Network 360 degrees – Your network is not merely a set of contacts, but rather trusted relationships you foster over time. This is time and effort well invested. It is enriching to build a deep and broad network that is diverse. With a diverse network you gain broader reach, expertise and knowledge across industries, functions, and geographies. Further, this means you network with not only those senior to you, but also with your peers and those junior to you. This way, your network not only opens up career opportunities for you, it allows you access to a pool of people to potentially hire from and also a network to draw expertise, advice and knowledge from.
- Volunteer – Volunteering is something you should strive to make time for irrespective of where you are in your career, from the time you are a student to the time you retire. You should look at volunteering for organizations in your industry/board committees, as well as for areas and causes you feel passionate about. For example, if there is an industry body in the field of your expertise and you volunteer for that association, it will not only help broaden your network, but also enrich your industry knowledge. Try not to always volunteer with the intention to get something back in return, but rather to simply give back to the community. Volunteering can be very rewarding professionally and personally, when approached the right way.
- Stay current – It is always beneficial to making a deliberate effort to stay current in your industry and functional area. This can be achieved by attending seminars, industry/professional body events and networking events. Adding a new certificate, credential or a course every 4-5 years also adds to your profile and knowledge while demonstrating your commitment to developing yourself.
- Moving beyond your comfort zone – Strive to seek out additional responsibilities from within your organization that would help expand your skill set and give you visibility, in other words stretch-assignments. For example, you might want to join a task force or a project team in your organization. In the end, the goal is to create an opportunity for you to demonstrate skills and talents that are not apparent in your day to day role as well as to develop skill sets that maybe helpful for future opportunities.
- Establish and build your brand – Your brand speaks to who you are, what you do and the experience others have of you. It should be authentic, visible through what you do and say and others should notice a consistent pattern to it. Brand is something you can shape and evolve over time. For example Steve Jobs’ brand is known for ruthless leadership as well as creativity and innovation. Depending on your career aspirations you can deliberately start shaping your brand towards the vision you have set for yourself, be it becoming a startup entrepreneur or a CEO. The activities include results you drive in your job, your network, how you make others feel in interactions, the type of activities you engage in, the volunteer roles you take up, the credentials/qualifications you attain. Basically everything you do becomes a part of your brand. So if you have a vision and aspiration for your career, your daily activities and behavior should reflect that vision. When people look at your results and behavior they should see the future vision you have for yourself in you.
Building a successful career boils down to having a vision to where you want to end up and having a strategy to get there, with purposeful and deliberate activities that you live by daily. Taking on the right opportunities also means you know which ones to avoid. Building a successful career is mostly day to day activities aligned with longer term vision. The above seven tips would help you develop your strategy and break it down to activities enabling you to build a successful career.
Contributed by Mr. Ranil Herath, MD-International, DeVry Education Group