Every year many people dream of obtaining a challenging position within a great company, but so few of them actually reach the position of their dreams. A lot of people end up doing a boring or mundane job, waiting for an opportunity that never comes, or comes so late that we ask ourselves if it was really worth it.
But a few others climb the ladder of responsibilities with remarkable consistency and in only a few years. Sometimes they fall, but they seem to always get back on their feet in one way or another. They usually end up somewhere around the top of the hierarchy 20 years later. What skills or attributes do they have that is better than others? Are they simply better at the job? I know a lot of talented people, doing an excellent job, but that seem to be stuck for years at a low level of responsibility.
Is it pure luck? Luck plays a role for short term opportunities. But the fact that some people seems to always get better opportunities cannot just be explained by luck.
Actually I think that you can create your own luck, and that some people are extremely good at it. During my career I worked with a lot of different people. Some were successful and others were not as much. I have noticed some common characteristics in those who had the most brilliant careers. I truly believe that by following a few lines of conduct you can increase a lot your chance for success.
Here they are:
1 – Say “no” a lot
If you know where you want to go and you know your value, then you shouldn’t accept work in a field that doesn’t interest you, even if it is supposed to be temporary, or if it “is better that what you have now”. Learn to say no when someone offers you a job that is not what you want or does not show your full potential. Learn to ignore the people around you that want you to be reasonable, and tell you how great position is, it could very well be great but that is not what you want to do.
The only time you should compromise on that is when the position that is offered to you is part of the normal process to get where you want to go. For example if you want to be a trader, accepting to be an intern before getting a full time position is something natural,however working in the back office is not.
I know so many people who accepted the first proposition that came to them after graduation, thinking they will get better opportunities later. The truth is: once you start doing something, people see you differently, and have a harder time considering you for another job other than that which you are currently doing, whatever your qualities. If you keep insisting and refusing jobs you don’t want to do, they may consider you for the position of your dream.
And if you don’t make it in the end, what did you lose? The opportunity to do a boring job for the rest of your life? These kind of opportunities will always be there, trust me, don’t accept them while you didn’t do your best to do something else. So learn to say no, and to say no early.
2 – Don’t get too comfortable
If you feel too good in your current position, it could impact your evolution. If your goal is to climb the ladder of hierarchy, you have to be constantly on the move looking for opportunities. In every company, there are people that did the same thing for so long that nobody will think of giving them different responsibilities. And they shouldn’t, because most of the time, these people have lost the sense of challenge and the taste for change. They actually are so afraid of change that sometimes even moving from a working location to another can impact their performance. They are like a tree, people have always seen them where they are, and nobody can see them anywhere else.
So when you feel you’ve become too comfortable for too long, act now before it is too difficult to move. Scout for opportunities internally, and even in other companies. And above all: accept to take a reasonable amount of risk. Of course you could end up in a situation that is worse than it is now. But every positive thing in life come with a certain level of risk. And the most successful people will meet failure at some point. If you are always on the move and mobile, it will be much easier to get back on your feet after this. I think that is what makes the difference between those for whom failure means the end and those for whom it means a new challenge.
3 – Find that thing that sets you apart from others
If you want to succeed, of course you have to be good at what you are doing. But at a certain point, everybody is good in their core field, and that is not anymore the sole criteria for promotion. When the managers have to choose between you and others, you have to be the obvious choice. You have to become the one that has something more.
For example these recent years in banks, those who understand computers and programming have a certain advantage over the others. Because algorithmics and automation has become so important in the banking field, those who can understand the systems, and even able to build their own tools are the only ones who really master the whole process. And they are still so many bankers from the time where it was only about math and finance. Those who don’t adapt to the technology changes are no longer evolving, and choosing them for a managerial position means there is a good chance that they will apply old school methods and forgo keeping up with the digital revolution.
I think that in every field there is a skill set or knowledge base that is not typically seen as traditionally needed for the job, but that will actually give a boost to the person who masters it. This is because everything constantly evolves and often times people find it hard to adapt. Find this thing you can get that will put you a step in front of others.