Passion and Performance : How to be Successful Throughout Your Career
There has been a significant trend over recent years to “follow your passion.” That’s just great, but if everyone wanted to jump out of planes or leap tall buildings in a single bound, how would the rest of us survive? If you are like most people, your early education taught you how to learn. The greatest benefit of my education was creating the desire to learn. I finished formal qualifications years ago, but I continue to go to at least one or more educational activities every week!
When you were growing up, you may have been very clear or very unclear about your future direction in life. I want to start by saying that no time is ever wasted. You may think that a crappy job was a waste of time – but what did it teach you? When you were ‘in the groove’ and in the right job, what did that teach you? As you grow older, how do you make decisions about what to do next?
Here are my top 10 tips to be successful throughout your career.
1. Be Willing to Learn and Grow
Every single day, you must be willing to learn something new, grow in some way or develop a new skill or talent. You might even just try and do what you did yesterday, but 1% better. Did you know that we are biologically programmed to want to improve – so if you don’t, you are actually holding yourself back! Understand that you can learn and grow from every situation – but you will probably find that you respond to the worse situations more than the good situations.
2. Be Willing to Move On from Issues
So something bad has happened at work. I can guarantee you that right now, it is not the end of the world. It might feel like that in the moment, it may even take a long time to recover, but it is never the end of the world.
Try not to react in the heat of the moment. If it is very serious, take stock and review your various options before taking action. If you end up leaving, even in difficult circumstances, be willing to let go and get on with your life. It took me six and a half years to stop being angry after being sacked when I was pregnant. I had to read a book on Forgiveness to work out what to do and move on. But I did eventually move on – but I could have saved myself six and a half years of grief if I had worked out how to move on sooner!
3. Be Willing to Start at the Bottom
A good education does not give you wisdom and experience. Intellect does not generate mastery. If you are willing to start at the beginning, despite your qualifications and your abilities, you have the opportunity to grow quickly and receive a promotion early. If you refuse a lesser opportunity, you may never be asked for a higher opportunity and find yourself unemployed after finishing a Ph.D. Every job is part of your career and adds to your list of transferable skills – don’t be too selective.
4. Be Willing to Work Hard
Good effort is recognized. Sure, there are plenty of people who promote luxury lifestyles, but these never happen overnight – they still require hard work first. Apply yourself when you are at work. That doesn’t mean working 14 hours per day, every day – but it does mean that when you are at work, you work. You don’t chat with friends, play on your phone or take extra long breaks.
You provide a fair exchange of effort for your payment (even if you feel that you are underpaid). What you earn in salary requires up to seven times that income to support that salary (to cover rent, administration, expenses, research and development, marketing, consultants etc). Don’t assume that because the business makes millions you are entitled to millions (unless you want to be the business owner and take all that risk).
5. Be Willing to Share your Talents
As you master your abilities, make sure you are willing to help others learn new skills. Let others help you too! Seek out opportunities to learn more skills and don’t rely on your employer to provide all of the opportunities. Why not go to a short course at your own expense? Then after the course, provide a report to your employer on what you learned and are willing to share with others. You need to be proactive and not just wait for an opportunity to appear – go out and find it! You never know, you might meet a future employer for the next step of your career!
6. Be Willing to Accept Help
Most successful people rely on teachers, trainers, advisers, coaches and mentors. They have discipline and know how to help themselves, but they are also willing to receive help. They realize that there is always something new to learn and even someone in a lower level role may be able to teach them new skills. Remember to be open and friendly in the workplace so that people can feel comfortable sharing both good and bad news. Some of my strongest criticisms have given me the most power to improve! I would never want someone to not tell me if I was doing something wrong!
7. Be Willing to have your Views Challenged
You may have been a part of your organization for a long time – that doesn’t mean you know everything! Encourage innovation and enterprise. Look at competing businesses and find ways to improve your performance within your organization. If someone has a new idea and you can’t see it working, make time to discuss it in detail and see if it can be adapted in some way and be enhanced by a closer review. Invite customers, clients, suppliers, and stakeholders to give you feedback so that you can provide even better service. Don’t react when you hear bad news – look for solutions.
8. Keep People Informed
When you work with other people, they need to know what is going on. If you are invited to meetings, go and participate and share stories (but do not stop others from sharing their stories). You do not need to share details of your personal life, but if a serious crisis has occurred (death or serious illness of a loved one), then it may be necessary to let someone know and adjust your work arrangements. Share good news up the line and to your colleagues so that everyone can benefit.
9. Understand the Needs of your Employer
You may think that to be effective in your job, you just need to complete certain tasks consistently. But what does the organization need? Do they need to improve their offerings, increase returns or upgrade their systems? Try not to be myopic and only look at your role. Look at the bigger picture and understand why you are employed and how you could add more value. If your current job is just a ‘means to an end’, it is still important for you to do it willingly – for your own sanity! Every job has elements of good and bad, no job is 100% perfect. If your job is 80% okay, I say, relax!
10. Consider your Future
To decide where you are going, you need to understand your values first. What is most important thing to you? Salary? Hours? Learning? Experience? Promotion? Something else? If you understand what is most important, you can make decisions very easily. For example, my highest value has always been to be available for my children – so when an opportunity comes up that involves too much travel, I can simply say no, thanks. I don’t even have to think about the options because my highest value would not be achieved.
To this end, you also need to take regular steps towards your future direction. Trying to stop one thing and instantly start another rarely works and in most cases, it usually creates a lot of false expectations, unrealistic demands, and stress – especially if you have to take a serious pay cut!
Ultimately, career success depends on you taking responsibility for your day-to-day and future career planning activities. You can either be open, proactive, and relaxed; or be closed, defiant, and stressed! The right amount of passion in the right direction can create an amazing performance.
Remember that there are many professionals who can help you with all aspects of your career, so don’t just educate yourself to do a job, make an effort to educate yourself to have an amazing career!!
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