10 Steps To Accelerate Your Career

July 31, 2010
An excellent recent article/slideshow in BusinessWeek entitled "30 Ways to Wreck Your Career" explains quite a few of the ways in which we can undermine our own careers. In the spirit of appreciative inquiry (rather than self-sabotage), I've reframed the ...

An excellent recent article/slideshow in BusinessWeek entitled "30 Ways to Wreck Your Career" explains quite a few of the ways in which we can undermine our own careers. In the spirit of appreciative inquiry (rather than self-sabotage), I've reframed the list as "what to do" instead of "what not to do." In the interests of time (and because I'm not going to make you wade through 32 slides and six ads) I've cut it down to the essential ten lessons. Enjoy!

1. Make yourself visible (you have to press to make an impression)
Hard work is essential for success, but it's easy to fall into the illusion that your hard work will do all the speaking for you. It won't. Other people are not only working just as hard, but they're building a strong personal brand, networking like mad and forming the types of interpersonal relationships and strong ties that make a successful company tick -- and successful managers take notice. It's time to crawl out of the woodwork and invest in some self-promotion. In short, if you don't self-promote, noone else will. And you won't get promoted.

2. Self development is continuous and essential
To think outside the box requires living outside the box. In other words, the creativity and spontaneous imagination needed for problem solving are stifled by living an insulated life. If you're content to acquire a finite set of job skills and then spend the rest of your time watching T.V., you'll be left behind. It's time to
start reading and reflecting again, finding out what makes the successful people around you tick, and being open to new ideas and experiences. Volunteer for task forces and stretch assignments -- even if they don't get you further at this job, often they'll pay off as a great interview story in your search for the next.

3. To succeed yourself, invest in the success of others
Looking out for No. 1 is easy, but it's also an illusion you can't afford. The company doesn't revolve around you and the only person you impress by being a one man show is yourself. It's time to realize the value of an "assist" and to invest in, and celebrate, the accomplishments of your peers.

4. ...but understand that work is a daily competition
The elementary school adage is that "everyone is a winner and you're only competing against yourself." In the workplace, though, you're being evaluated on a daily basis by how you perform against your coworkers. Realizing that you're in a competition will give you the enhanced awareness you need to set yourself apart from the pack.

5. Be open with your managers and mentors
Talking to your superiors about your ideas and ambitions sounds like a risky proposition, but if you're not going out of your way to do this, chances are you're telling them what they want to hear instead -- and this is an even riskier path. It's time to go out on a limb and earn the respect of your superiorsand your own self-respect by being tactfully open and honest.

6. Hang with the winners
This one is pretty clich, and maybe that's why it's so easy to forget. For your own personal evolution, it's essential that you seek out relationships with people who will support and praise you when you need it, criticize you when you need it, and constructively challenge you when you need it. It's easy to fall in with people who you simply like, but this can be a quick route to stagnation. Do some active reflection on who it is you spend your time with at work -- do those relationships inspire and motivate you? Or do they build on a culture of naysaying and "can't do"?

7. Get out before it's too late
The ability of humans to stay in denialand dangerous situationseven as the death knell rings is the stuff of legend (and horror flicks galore). To keep from being another statistic, don't let your romantic and outdated desire to "work for the same company your whole life" anesthetize you to the fact that your company is going nowhere -- or worse, going under. It's a survival tactic to know when it's time to honestly acknowledge the hidden meaning lurking behind payroll slashes, layoffs and compromised mission statements. Sometimes, it's time to get out while you can.

8. Follow the rules
The ends justify the means, right? Wrong. You might impress a few people with your "get it done at all costs" attitude, but eventually your circumventing of the rules and your company's stated values will catch up with you. It's time to set aside your insular and ego-driven agenda, toe the company line, and reap the benefits of being part of a greater whole.

9. Know yourself
What you think you're projectingequanimity, confidence and abilitymight be at complete odds with what your body language is transmittingboredom, insecurity, fear, and resentmentand your superiors and colleagues will pick up on this. It's time to look inward and make sure that your mouth and
body are saying the same thing.

10. See the big picture
The devil's in the details, as they say, but if you're not careful, the devil will also keep you there. It's time to stop hyper-focusing on the minutiae of daily taskswhich is, really, just another form of procrastinationand start thinking in broader strokes so you can capitalize on the new trends, technologies and strategic shifts that are only apparent from a bird's eye view.

(Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

About the Author

Brad Kenney Blog | Chief Marketing Officer

Brad Kenney is the former Technology Editor of IndustryWeek and now serves as director of the mobile/social platforms practice at R/GA, a global marketing/advertising firm in New York City.

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