I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with some amazing people. People who built their careers on the back of hard work, passion and focus.
But the most successful of these people had something else. Hard work, passion and focus were there but to get to the very top you need more than just these things.
In this article, I will give you seven other traits so you can use to form your own career goals that will help you to build a successful career.
1. Know what you want.
This one might seem obvious, but many people never take the time to think carefully about what they want to do in their career. They accept jobs in industries or departments they have no interest in and soon find themselves settled into a career of misery and complaining.
It always amazes me how people spend more time planning their annual summer holiday than they do their career.
If you want to build success in your work, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. You need that North Star to guide you in your decisions and to keep you focused on where you are going.
Without that clarity, you will drift from one roll to another never building any momentum towards your ultimate career goal.
2. Ask yourself: What skills are you lacking?
When we begin our working lives, we have the academic skills but lack many practical skills.
When you know what you want to do with your career, you can identify the skills you will need. Soft skills such as relationship building, the ability to collaborate with others and your productivity all form part of these skills and you need to make sure you are developing them.
Invest in yourself and for those skills that do not develop naturally, find the courses online or the books and study. Once you have studied these skills, make sure you put them into practice. This one tip will put you ahead of 98% of your colleagues who treat their work as just a job that pays them money to live.
3. Know that success leaves a path.
I teach this one to all of my clients. In every industry, there are examples of people who started at the bottom and worked their way up to become industry leaders. Examples like Satya Nadella at Microsoft and Jony Ive at Apple. These people were not founders or entrepreneurs, they worked their way up to the top from the bottom. In doing so, they left clues.
Whatever company you are in there will be people who began at the bottom and worked their way up to become leaders. How did they do that? What books did they read? What courses did they take?
I remember when I worked in the hotel industry. One of my mentors began as a receptionist. Louise rose to become the General Manager of my home city’s top hotel. She did this through having a clear goal, diligence and always putting the guest first. She was tough but fair.
I learnt from Louise that every time you come into work, the guest was always the top priority and to always be respectful of your colleagues.
Find that one person in your industry that rose from the bottom and work out the path they took to get to where you want to be in the future. Then map out your own path that reflects the path already taken to the top.
4. Watercooler gossiping will not help your career.
I know it is always tempting to be the popular one in your office. To be the one everyone wants to hang out with and the one to go to when there’s some gossip to share. Don’t get involved.
Being the ‘office gossip” will sink your career faster than anything else. If you are serious about building a successful career, you do not have time to get involved in all this gossiping, complaining and time wasting.
You don’t have to ignore your colleagues, but never indulge them by listening to the gossip. Make your excuses and get back to work. This one tip will safeguard your career more than any other tip.
5. When at work, work.
Your workplace is not a social club. It is a place to do the work you were employed to do.
Of course being polite and friendly towards your colleagues is important, but never forget you are there to do work. Do it. Avoid getting yourself drawn into long conversations about last night’s episode of Elementary or your local football team’s performance.
There is a time and place for these conversations, but it is not on company time. When at work, do your work. Lunchtimes and after work is the right time to discuss the sporting prowess of your team’s star striker.
6. Have a ‘how can I do it better?’ mindset.
One of the qualities I have seen in all successful career builders is they have a ‘how can I do it better?’ mindset. They are always asking themselves how they can do their work better, or how could they have solved that problem better.
It is a mindset of continuous self-improvement and it is a practice that can catapult you to the top faster than anything else.
Look for parts of your work that is duplicated and figure out ways to reduce the duplication.
Often new working practices are welded on to old working practices and this leads to inefficiencies and duplication. Find those inefficiencies and develop better ways of doing that work. This habit is always appreciated by your bosses and tells them you are serious about your work.
7. Model the behaviors of the most successful person in your industry.
This one was the best tip I was ever given when I began my career. Find the person at the top and work out how they got there. This does not necessarily mean the person at the top of your company, it means the person at the top of your industry.
If you are an architect, find out how Sir Frank Foster built his career. If you are a writer, find out how Stephen King built his career.
These people have shown you how to do it, and they left clues. Read everything you can about them, learn from them and model their work habits.
Modelling does not mean copying. It means taking the traits they used and adapting them to work best for you.
My legal hero was a British lawyer, George Carmen QC. When I began my legal career, I read everything I could about George Carmen QC. I learned that the key skill that led to his success was his ability to communicate with juries. He was a brilliant communicator and I realized the one skill I could learn that would have a huge impact on my career was the ability to communicate with people.
While I did not ultimately follow a legal career, that skill of being good at communicating has served me well in all the industries I have worked in.
Whatever career path you are following, these tips will serve you well. Creating clear goals around them will give you the advantages you need to build a wildly successful career. They are tested, they work and all you need to do is to adapt them so they work for you.