Five Critical Steps to Achieving Career Success
We’ve all heard the saying, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” It’s an uplifting thought, and certainly one that I’ve sought comfort in during some less-prosperous (though emotionally rewarding) moments in my career. But at the end of the day, it’s just not that easy.
In today’s job market, success comes to those who identify what they want and go after it wholeheartedly and with unwavering determination. They are the doers, the non-complainers, the change makers, the hard workers, the opportunists, the innately proactive and the consistently positive. In a word, they are the best.
The reality is that in order to succeed, you have to become the best. In whatever it is that you do, you must work as hard as you can to be the best if you want to achieve career success. And THEN the money will follow.
This was the subject of a recent talk at Grossmont College, during which our CEO, Louis Song, offered some practical advice to a group of students facing first-time entry or re-entry into the workforce.
“Attitude and work ethic is everything,” he emphasized. “Anyone can become the best at what they do, but it takes work.”
1. Identify your goal and don’t look back. Knowing what you want early on will help guide future decision-making and sustain the motivation you’ll need to overcome hurdles along the way. Unsure what it is that you want to do? Try eliminating the options that you don’t want to do first. Then do some research. As you start honing in on the key factors that motivate you personally, your right career path will start to take shape.
2. Network like your career depends on it, because ultimately, it will. In the digital age, job listings are easily discoverable and often receive hundreds, even thousands, of applications in response. Prevent your resume from disappearing into the black hole by establishing contacts on the inside. Go on LinkedIn (create a profile ASAP if you don’t already have one), join groups that relate to your field or company of interest, and figure out who’s who by identifying people in specific positions that you would like to hold someday.
Then start knocking on some doors (digitally speaking). Try sending InMail messages to accomplished LinkedIn members in your industry of focus, stating, “I noticed you’re an expert in this field, and I would love to get some advice from you on how to get where you are someday.” Many people will respond to a message like that. Use this meeting to figure out how to get started, and which skills you’ll need to be competitive when you apply. Securing an informational interview now can help to create a pivotal point-of-entry down the road.
3. Become the best.Your informational interviews may uncover challenges, and even weaknesses, that you’ll need to overcome in order to be the best possible candidate for the job. Even if you’re already qualified from a technical standpoint, you’ll need to be the best – and be able to articulate why – in order to stand out. This is where a laser-focused pursuit of your goal becomes essential, and it’s often the step where the less-driven drop off and settle for Plan B. For those unwilling to settle, roll up your sleeves.
Read everything you can about your industry of focus. Practice interviewing over and over again. If you struggle to articulate your words in a high pressure situation, join Toastmasters. It’s free. Keep practicing. Rewrite your resume so that it is quantitative and proves that you are the best. This applies at any level, even if you don’t have a lot of work experience. If you were previously a waiter, were you the best? Based on what? If you’re a student and got an A in a class, were you one out of 10? Or one out of 100? Quantify your accomplishments and articulate them in a way that is relevant to the specific job you want. Then continue proactively networking and trying to get your message out there to the right people whenever possible. And keep practicing.
4. Work your @$$ off.The job market is improving, but the landscape for job seekers can still be tough. If you find a less-than-ideal opportunity in the right company or the right industry, take it. Realize that it’s not about that one-time role, right now. In fact, if you’re in your 20’s, you have 30-40 more years of work ahead of you. So do what you have to do now to get in the door and begin steering the right trajectory for your future.
Treat every role as though it’s your big break. Regardless of your position, your job description, or even your skills, this is your chance to make an impression on the right people. So work hard. Work harder than everyone else to be the best at whatever it is that you’re doing. Come in early, leave late, and fire on all cylinders every single day. And don’t complain. At the end of the day, your attitude and work ethic – more than your skills – will make you stand out and determine how far you’ll go with each opportunity.
5. Cut yourself some slack.You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to fail sometimes. It’s important to realize is that failure is an imminent part of the career path, and that true success is the result of a long, iterative journey. So if you make a bad decision, don’t get too down. Learn from your failure and keep moving forward. You are on the road to success, and that’s a pretty good place to be.
CO-FOUNDER & CEO
Louis Song is co-founder and CEO of PROVEN and has more than 20 years of professional experience ranging from Information Systems Analysis to Technology Recruiting to Sales Management. Previously, Louis was the Managing Director of the San Diego location of one of the largest staffing companies in the country. He managed an office of more than 70 people that generated more than $40M a year. Louis graduated from the American University in Washington D.C. with a BA in Psychology and is active in local business and community organizations as a board member of the Workforce Investment Board, the Asian Business Association, and the San Diego Asian Film Foundation.
Contact Louis directly at 858.412.1122 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.