What makes a person like Barack Obama or Bill Gates successful?
What factors, what parts of them and of their environment, are the greatest predictors of their career success?
What are the five things you didn't know can predict your career success?
1. Be Part of an Open Network
The single greatest predictor of career success may be being part of an open, ever-spreading network rather than a closed network. The ability to rapidly meet new people and foster new relationships within an ever growing cluster is a huge factor in growing careers. In fact, this has been confirmed in academic studies, and this subtle fact becomes obvious when you think about it in practice.
For example, individuals in global, open corporations with numerous transfer opportunities across sectors and geographies can rise about as fast and as far as their ambition will take them, while those in more stratified, localized organizations often feel stunted.
Similarly, founders in Silicon Valley are able to jump from one high flying startup to another, and from startups to Google to back to startups, because the cluster's large, open network prizes freedom of movement.
2. Be Curious
The most successful people learn from others. In fact, although the popular notion is almost always to learn from your superiors, you may learn far more from your direct peers and even your subordinates, who will often bring a fresh take to your direct work. There are many ways to skin a cat, and value in learning all of them.
3. Be Flexible
The most successful leaders are often those whose flexibility allows them to accept and embrace new challenges. Early in one's career, geographic flexibility is a huge predictor of career success: individuals who are willing to take stints in different sectors and locations of their employer(s) and roundly succeed routinely end up more successful than their peers.
Later on, when most are more geographically constrained (kids, family, mortgage), flexibility moves most often to work type: those willing to adopt new challenges that are not an exact continuation of what they previously did - for example someone who excels in Sales moving to a Head of Marketing role, often rise far more quickly than those who elect for the 'safety' of what they know.
4. Be Emotionally Intelligent
IQ matters far less in the workplace than people think. It is your emotional intelligence, particularly your relationship-building skills, that matter most in the vast majority of fields (even those where you wouldn't think that is the case, such as tech programming and science). Those individuals who build wide and deep peer networks and foster relationships of mutual respect with a wide-range of colleagues are most likely to rise and keep rising over time.
5. Be Relentless
Every career, even the most successful, has its troughs and bumps in the road. Steve Jobs got fired from Apple and spent nearly a decade on the fringes before finding success with Pixar and returning to Apple. When you face your roadbump, your relentlessness will define whether you are ultimately successful.