So you want a successful career, huh? Well geesh, who doesn't? Seeing as we spend a bazillion hours in our lifetime at work (that's barely a scientific fact, more like a general estimate), we should probably figure out a way to be successful while doing it, right? While we each keep digging to find that perfect fit, I'll offer my top 5 tips of what I believe will make you not just successful, but happy:
1. Be authentic: Work in an area of Interest to you
Can you sit inside for hours figuring out formulas in Excel to make your job easier (thank goodness for people like you!)? Maybe you prefer being outdoors doing surveys on animals. Love doing research? Perhaps you're an athlete? Whatever you do, be real and true to yourself in what actually interests you on a daily basis. Don't settle for a paycheck. Find something that interests you so much that you could do it as a hobby. If you don't, you'll find yourself watching the clock so closely that the second hand will look like it's going in reverse. Gah. Sounds awful, doesn't it?
2. Play to your Strengths
No one wants to do what they don't like to do. Remember back in high school when you were pretty much forced to do Algebra (ack! maybe that was just me), but all you really wanted to do was write that poem, conduct that science experiment in your fridge, or (gasp!) socialize with your friends? You likely had some strengths in one of those areas. By this point in your career, you probably know what you do really well. Guess what? Do it more! Become a resource for others in that area. Show others how fantastic you are with that strength. Play it up! If you are playing to your strengths at work, you're likely losing track of time because you're having so much stinking fun while doing it. Carry on.
3. Match your Values to your work
Are you a carefree, creative person? Do you need an outlet to get all of that innovation out? Then a job that is filled with rules and procedures may not be for you. Is family one of your strongest values? Then is an 80-hour/week job the one that will offer you the best work-life balance possible? Does having meaning, direction, and serving a purpose drive you through each and every day? Consider the deeply rooted values you have that support who you are as a person. When there is alignment with your work and your values, it's fun to get up and go to work each day, and you'll perform at high levels that connect with your personal mission and drive.
4. Recognize others
Sure, it's perfectly fine to talk yourself up in a job interview and your performance evaluation, but on a day-to-day basis, make sure you're throwing in some recognition to your direct reports, colleagues, and even your boss. Why is recognition so important? It shows people that you appreciate and value them and their efforts. Hey, let's be real: you're not the only one busting your rump to get stuff done around the office. Send an email to someone and 'cc' their manager, write a quick note and leave it on their desk, give them a shoutout during a team meeting. Or you know what? Just say a simple "Thanks".
5. Do what you say you'll do
What happens when someone tells you they'll follow-up with you and they don't? Do you write them off? Realize you can't trust them? Stop asking them for help? Check, check, and check. If you want a successful career, you'll make sure you live up to every commitment you make to someone you support. That could be your boss, your direct reports, your cross-functional partners, your customers, or even your significant other. True success is possible by making sure you're not committing to more than you can handle. Learn to take responsibility responsibly. Know your schedule, know your boundaries, and know what you're capable of handling. Delegate when possible, volunteer when probable, and block out your calendar to keep you accountable.
That's it! Simple, right? Wellll, maybe not. Pick one of these five tips for success and put a goal around it for the next week or two. Think about how you'll feel if you succeed. What will others say? My bet is happy faces all around.