My oldest of three children recently moved to New York to begin his career in advertising.
I have helped lots of friends and even their kids with job searches and career advice over the years (call it my avocation). Since this was my own child, in addition to helping with his job search strategy after college, I also wanted to leave him with some nuggets of advice for a successful career, most of which are messages he has heard many times (whether he wanted to or not).
So as an extension of my avocation to help others with life and career transitions, I am sharing this advice not only with my son, but also with you. Here are 11 keys for a successful career:
- Ask questions. It is the best way to learn. Better to ask questions then to act like you know it all. It's OK to say, "I am not sure, but I will get back to you with an answer by the end it the day."
- Be honest always. That's with yourself and with others. Your integrity is your most important asset, and it hard to establish and easy to lose.
- Clear communication requires clear thinking. Clarify your thoughts with an outline before writing them down, and think before you speak.
- Maintain a high Say/Do ratio. The best way to do this is to be cautious about what you commit to. Before you commit to a deadline (when work is due), always look at your timeline (when work actually gets done) to ensure you can keep your commitment.
- Keep it simple. Fewer concisely expressed words (written or spoken) are more powerful than long, flowery statements, at least in the business world.
- Accept responsibility. If you make a mistake, admit it, sincerely apologize then immediately take action to fix it and prevent it from happening again.
- Listen. The one with the most power in the room is the person who LISTENS well, then offers input that integrates others' comments with a unique solution or perspective.
- Work hard. There is no substitute for hard work - show up early, leave late and be valuable in-between.
- Be a team player. Find ways to help others succeed. That is the ultimate job of a leader - to shine a light on others versus yourself. Others will see the leadership potential in you if you do this well. Leadership is a role you assume, not a job title.
- Always be prepared. Before any meeting or interaction, do your research, arrive with good questions or solutions to problems.
- Take initiative and follow-up. These are the bookends of success. Anticipate the needs of others. Use the 3 W's - What, Who and When - to clarify actions each party must take after meetings or conversations in the hallway.