Good career guidance is often simple, easy to understand and to apply, and at times so obvious when you first learn it that you wonder why you didn’t think of it earlier! The best career advice, of course, is that counsel that actually works; you see tangible success after applying what you’ve learned.
“We do the best we can with what we have and when we know better, we do better.”
– Maya Angelou
The challenge for many job seekers? To discern between generic career advice that gets thrown around and rehashed over and over – and those golden nuggets that have been tested and validated and proven by real professionals in today’s job market.
When I was finally creating some serious momentum in my corporate career – years before the entrepreneurship bug caught me – I decided to reflect on what career advice eventually got me out of what had been a 5-year career rut. And it occurred to me: the advice that finally got me unstuck was not about excelling at school, being a hard worker, or a constant yes-person. (In fact, some of that can do more harm than good.)
No, five nuggets of career advice that catapulted my career success was simple, easy to understand and – ultimately – actionable:
Emotional Intelligence Matters
We humans are not robots. Employers know this; many push aside even the smartest people in favor of mature, stable contributors. Why? Because business is run through human interaction and human understanding, not through numbers and spreadsheets. Emotional Intelligence (EI) means you understand and manage your emotions as an adult – even in times of disagreement, stress and chaos.
How do you manage your EI? Never lose your temper or become overly excited when things go wrong or unexpected at work, even if it’s in favor of your boss or company. Always remain professional and in control. Also learn what to say but extremely more important, what not to say, in a sensitive conversation and during critical work meetings. You can’t take back words – and the wrong ones will label you for a long time.
Negotiate Like Everyone Is on the Same Team
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word negotiate? A state of conflict? Disagreements? Being pushy or getting cheated? Probably, because We have all been trained to see negotiation as two people with opposing agendas sitting across the table from each other, one trying to win over the other. By definition, this means that one person has to lose, creating a lose-win situation.
Now what if you thought about negotiation in such a way that it created a state of collaboration, mutual gains and a win-win result every single time? The process is simple, and an amazing boost to your career: start seeing yourself at the same side of the table as the person you are negotiating with, every time.
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset (And Abandon the Me-me Approach)
This is going to sound ironic: Stop thinking and worrying on your career success all the time – and start focusing on the success of your boss, his or her boss, your team and the organization – and everything changes. Including your own career.
The entrepreneurial mindset means you treat your work, projects and decisions as though you are an owner or executive at the company – and not just an employee that shows up for paycheck in exchange for some work. Your decisions and your actions will start to come from the best place possible, because when you make your company successful, your own success is imminent.
Next time you have to make a decision, ask yourself: would the company owner make that same decision? Would he take the day off? Hire extra workers? Ask for that budget increase? Think twice. Act once.
Consistently Demonstrate Your Value
At first, you may have thought that working hard was all that mattered. You’ll get noticed – and tapped for raise and promotion when the time arrives. Then you were told that you need to show results and spell out the hard work that apparently, your boss or management was too busy to realize you were doing. So you started speaking to your work, which is great progress, but now I have more news for you.
You can’t just show results. To show value – what your contribution directly means to the organization – you must connect-the-dots for management. If you don’t connect those dots – and prove your long-term value – you’re missing out on a key component of career advancement. You deserve better than that!
Next time you are speaking to the results you achieved at work, go one step further: talk about the impact of your work. Who did you help? What problem did you solve? What were the financial implications? How did it help move the mission of the company forward? Connect these dots for that boos too busy to notice – and your career will explode.
I wasn’t very coachable when I first started my career. In fact, I was not coachable at all. Constructive feedback was always hard to hear because I attached my personal self-worth and value to it, and therefore felt small and insignificant when I heard something – anything — negative. Don’t do that!
Coachable means you are a mature professional; you are grateful for the opportunity to improve yourself and your work. This tells your company you are someone worth investing in. Learn how to become extremely coachable, so much so that you have vice presidents and senior company staff seeking you out and giving you invaluable, mentor-level advice.
Next time someone has feedback for you, make it easy for them. Set up a private meeting or grab some coffee. Request the feedback and be open and grateful for the input. True: sometimes bosses are not very good at giving feedback – but you can still be good at receiving it. Actively listen, then put that feedback into action and by sharing your results from their coaching with them.
“Forgive yourself for what you didn’t know until you learned it.”
– Zig Ziglar
The first time I heard this career advice, and found it lead directly to success at work, I was angry that I didn’t know it sooner. I had to forgive myself and start applying the advice going forward.
It’s natural to want to feel that you’re on the right path and the recognition will happen “eventually.” Sadly, that’s the type of thinking that keeps the best talent from getting recognized and rewarded.
Apply this career advice. Learn to be successful at work. Soon, you’ll show your employer that you are worth investing in. In today’s business climate, that’s the type of person that gets ahead. Let it be you.
About the Author: Farnoosh Brock is an entrepreneur, published author, speaker and business coach. She started her company, Prolific Living, after a successful corporate career where she learned the unspoken set of rules to advancing in the workplace. She shows professionals going through their “mid-career stall” how to move up the corporate ladder and get recognized and make a lot more money. For her free e-course, check out: fasttrackpromotion.com. Follow Farnoosh on Twitter.