Last month, I shared how the first 5 countdown to success skills helped me launch the career I love. We talked about the basics – from building a strong foundation, to office communications, to learning beyond college. This month, it’s time to take it up a notch. While the first 5 skills are extremely important in starting your career, I think the second five are even more important in making sure you are on the path to reach your long-term goals.
Determination & Perseverance. These are the two most powerful words when it comes to getting ahead in your career. The word determination often comes with a definition that includes the word “purpose.” What is your purpose? For me, my ultimate purpose is to help the most disadvantaged people and truly change the world (I’ll leave out specific details, but contact me if you want to hear my plans!). I see a career as a path to achieving your purpose in life. The saying is true – when you have a career you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. To persevere, challenge yourself in your career and do whatever it takes to reach your goals.
Once you have your purpose and know why you are working so hard, critical thinking becomes increasingly important. In my mind, there are two types of critical thinking. The first is to problem-solve at work. It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day grind and forget to step back and think about the ways to increase your own efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. In my previous role as Director of Operations, I did this very often (it was my job), but it’s important to do in any position or type of company. Need inspiration? Read the Four Hour Workweek. The second type of critical thinking I encourage you to engage in is more focused on reflection on your own purpose and goals. Think critically about the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals, and routinely assess your progress towards them. When you’re working so hard, you’ll sometimes find that you don’t get anything but positive feedback – congrats! However, that does not help you grow professionally, so push for critical feedback from those you work with. Your superiors, peers, and especially those you manage.
When you are beginning your career, it’s easy to forget about the importance of stress management. Less stress = greater productivity. You may even find that you enjoy your work more. Whether it’s going for a run (even on your lunch break), taking a yoga class, reading a good book, or shutting off your blackberry for a night, make sure to find time for some rest and relaxation. I also find that inspiration helps me stress less. If you have 18 minutes to spare, watch a TED talk. You’ll feel less stressed and definitely motivated.
Being a strong competitor is an essential component to getting to where you want to be in your career. However, there are several extremely important things to remember. Competing is not to be confused with taking down others in order to win. In the recently published book, Give & Take by Adam Grant (a must read), Grant talks about the importance and benefits of being a giver in your life and your career. When you support and help others in their own careers, you will find that ultimately you often benefit in the long-term. While the word “compete” is often thought of as trying to win, being a strong competitor means challenging others, asking them to challenge you, and creating a win-win environment for all in the workplace.
The final success skill is goal setting. This is the most important skill to learn, love and live by. Setting goals is the first step to achieving your goals and your ultimate purpose. As a kid, I would oftentimes be told to dream. Every time, I would say, no, I’m not going to dream – I’m going to do. I believe that each of us has our primary purpose in life, and by setting realistic goals, we can achieve them. Research shows that when people write down their goals, they are significantly more likely to accomplish them than those who did not write down their goals.
Here’s an option for how: Take a big poster board. At the top write down your ultimate purpose. Then break it down into 18 month and 3 year plans. 18 months is very attainable and allows you to break down the goal in detail. The three-year plan should include exactly where you want to be in three years and gives you plenty of time to get there by using two 18 month plans (re-assess after the first half).
So now, with ten core success skills in your back pocket, get out there and do your thing! I always love to hear about (and help with) pathways to success, so please feel free to contact me and share your stories.
Kate Hayes was a Chapter Director with SWSG at Northeastern University. She is currently the Director of Evaluation & Program Impact at Minds Matter National, Inc. and blogs at www.straightupnewyork.com. You can find more posts by Kate on our blog. Twitter: @kdahayes