On my desk at work I have this paper pinned up that reminds me of five things I can do to help ensure I have a successful career. I call it 5 points to work by. They are all pretty simple and might seem like common sense, but sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the little things and lose sight of the big picture.
1. Develop a Strong Foundation
Ever worked with someone that is always questioning themselves? Not confident? Worries too much? Developing a strong foundation is key to being able to take on challenges and succeed in work and in life. How can you support others when you cannot support yourself? I think there are three main things to focus on here, in no particular order:
Having a strong physical foundation means taking care of your physical body. You need to get enough sleep and exercise – all the things you always get lectured about not doing or feel guilty about falling short of. Nobody is perfect and you can always do better in all of these areas, but if you’re looking for ways to improve your chances for success, this not be an obvious area to focus on. The fact of the matter is that when you are healthier, you feel better. You’re better able to cope with stress and you improve your cognitive function.
Emotional foundation in this context can be summed up by the phrase “Like Yourself”. So many people who lack self confidence beat themselves up for no real reason. Self confidence leads to success and success leads to self confidence. It’s a cycle that can work for you or against you. Other people will gravitate to someone who they sense has good self concept. You self concept is your own perception of yourself – how good you are at doing things. It is not necessarily always a realistic view, but it can influence your performance in reality. So if you are carrying an emotional burden or dealing with issues and think you can keep that separate from your success on the job – rethink your willingness to seek help or focus on improving this area.
Spiritual foundation can mean very different things to different people. We all have a need inside us for spiritual fulfillment. To me this means finding time to be thankful for what I have and reflect on who God is to me. If you look at some of the most successful leaders, they have qualities such as humility that can only be gained through improving your spiritual foundation. It is easy to become prideful, arrogant and overconfident in yourself when you fail to recognize how little you know and how blessed you are to have what God has given you. Believing in only yourself limits your potential to overcome obstacles greater than yourself.
2. Become a Recognized Expert
Becoming a recognized expert is summarized by the phrase “Learn everything you can.” Having a thirst for knowledge and a hunger to learn everything you can about your profession or area of focus will naturally promote your role as an expert in your organization. This may take time and you will never know everything, but the key is to be interested and curious. I can’t tell you how many people fail to ask questions about information that really should pertain to their jobs just because they don’t want to make the effort to learn anything new. Get used to constantly learning new things and understanding where they fit in with the existing concept you already have. This is one of the main points that fuels my desire to maintain this site. I am so naturally curious and fascinated about why things are the way they are – especially when it comes to my field of study – which is Accounting and Finance. Once you cultivate the desire to learn, try focus that desire to attain some concrete educational goals that can help promote your additional knowledge above your colleagues. Maybe that will be a Master’s degree. Maybe some type of professional certification. Either way, the achievement of these things will increase your knowledge and ability to perform your job, increase your self concept, and also usually give you a bump up in salary.
3. Become Emotionally Engaged
Become emotionally engaged. Some people are afraid of this one. They think if they become emotional about the work they do then they will lose objectivity. I would say “Have passion for what you do.” Without being emotionally engaged in your field, you don’t have passion. You view your job as your job and nothing more. We all know people who come to work and go through the motions. Don’t be one of those people. Have a passion to learn more about whatever interests you. Find out what motivates you about your job and leverage that to help invigorate your every day work. Goal setting is helpful here too. With goals and a sense of achievement, you can feel you’re making progress and fuel your desire to learn more and do more. If you have trouble really “getting into” what you do, then maybe you should consider changing careers. You should look at the things that do interest you and consider anything you could do to either relate your current line of work to those things or change completely. It’s much easier to excel in areas you enjoy focusing on than to churn out accomplishment out of sheer will despite lack of natural interest.
4. Actively Help Others
I have found this to be one of the easier ones to abide by in the corporate world. Mainly that is just due to the fact I started with this mindset from the time I started my first job. If you notice, there are some people at work that just look for excuses to tell someone they can’t help. They are too busy, they have higher priorities, they don’t have the resources, etc. Whatever it is, the fact remains that these people are missing the huge benefit that exists in helping others. I can’t count the number of times that I have volunteered with to help out with a project and have found myself a) getting to know other people in my company better, b) gaining knowledge of other areas of the business – sometimes becoming the resident expert on the project I’m involved in – and c) getting to showcase some of the useful knowledge and skills I have (which helps be with number 2 above). Each time I take on additional work, I end up benefiting from it just as much as I benefit others whom I help. You could say the same when it comes to life outside work as well. Showcasing your abilities when it comes to charity isn’t important, but you definitely might learn more about yourself (helping with number 1 above) in the process.
5. Become an Effective Team Member
I think even if you master the first four items on this list, but at the end of the day you are difficult to work with, you will still face challenges and limitations. Getting along with others is key to success. I have heard people say in success seminars I have been a part of that 80% of one’s success depends on how well they are able to get along with others. Ultimately it will be other individuals that will make choices on whether or not to promote you or do business with you. Working well with members on your team will ultimately determine how much you’re able to achieve. I would take a well functioning team of people with average intelligence over one genius any day. The reason is that more is better than one and when coordinated a cooperating together can achieve more. So think about the others whom you work with. How can you better work with them? What obstacles do you usually face when working with them? How can you either modify your own behavior in order to accommodate their personality, or work with them toward a common goal? You can start by simply expressing your desire to work with them. Tell them you want to know what you could do to improve your cohesiveness. Be open to them and their ideas. Sometimes you can still accomplish something and learn something beneficial without telling others what you think or how it should be done.