When you were in school, you probably imagined that getting an advanced degree and working diligently once you got a good job would automatically put you on the fast track to success. Unfortunately, in the real world, things don’t always work that way.
While your degree may help you get work in your field and working long and hard may make you feel appreciated in the office, you might quickly discover people who appear less qualified or as hard working as you appear to get the promotions.
Career success can be something of a mystery.
These anomalies of what should happen but fail to happen don’t just apply to a regular corporate career, either. You could join a franchise, say, buy a UPS store franchise, and find that other franchisees that don’t work as hard as you make much more money than you. You might be mystified why you are not doing as well, or better.
The reason career success can be difficult to figure out is because we are often only looking at a few superficial factors behind success like education, experience, effort, and so on.
3 Secrets to Career Success
The secret to achieving career success is three-fold: your knowledge and skills, your meta-knowledge, and your soft skills.
Knowledge and skills.
Knowledge and skills play a significant role in your career. It doesn’t matter if you passed all your certifications, if you can’t use any of your theoretical understanding in the workplace. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how hard you’re working at your job—how early you come in, how late you leave, and how you’re always working when you’re working—if you’re not making a significant contribution.
The reason why someone else may get promotions faster than you or run a similar type of business more successfully than you is not always because they know the right people, happen to have the perfect location, or any other commonly attributed reasons. Often the reason for their success is because they are more knowledgeable and skillful and produce high quality work.
How to acquire knowledge and skills:
- Decide what knowledge and skills you need to know. By asking the right people and making your own observations, you should be able to get a fairly good idea of what knowledge and skills make the most difference in your profession.
- Pursue a structured course on how to acquire the knowledge and skills that you need. If no courses are available, design your own self-study course.
- Put into practice on the job all the things you are studying.
- Continue to study and improve even if you now do your job better than everyone else.
This is knowledge about the type of knowledge and skills valued in your profession, career, or business. You must find out what successful people in your career know that you don’t know.
Merely working long and hard but producing work that is not making a difference can be frustrating. You don’t have a clear idea of your career track and you aren’t aware of what your superiors or your customers want from you. Since you’re not providing them what they really want, you’re not getting recognized or rewarded.
In order for you to know how to do well in your career, you have to learn what knowledge, skills, and actions are most valued by the people you serve.
How to acquire meta-knowledge:
- Notice who is doing really well in your business and ask them for advice.
- Research your profession and get a broad understanding about it.
- Experiment with a few ideas to see if you are on track with your understanding of how your career works. Notice what is rewarded and what is ignored.
When you are in school or if you go through company-sponsored training, you are taught technical skills like how to code, how to organize a project, how to do a certain business process, or how to follow a particular methodology. While these skills are necessary on the job, you also have to supplement them with soft skills.
Soft skills valued by businesses include clear written and spoken communication, collaborating with a team, adaptability, problem solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution. Using soft skills you can become the MVP of your office.
How to acquire soft skills:
- Although you may not have learned through the experiences of your life certain soft skills, this doesn’t mean you can’t formally learn them.
- First find out what soft skills are important in your business. If, for instance, you’re a supervisor and need to instruct people on how to do things, but they always make such a mess of it that you have to do it yourself, then you need to learn how to communicate your ideas better. The situation will not change unless you can teach others to do things as well as you do.
- Take a course in the soft skill online or through a community college.
- Seek out a mentor who has obviously mastered the soft skill. Many experienced senior staff is eager to share their skills with others.
- Volunteer in places where you can practice the soft skill.
Demystifying Career Success
By applying this framework, you should notice things working out for you much better in your career.