1. A career is a marathon, not a sprint
Life, and the careers we pursue to fill it and pay the bills, needs to be approached on a long-term basis. If you sprint you will wear out or start to resent work that you previously enjoyed. Allow yourself time to breathe and grow. Things will come if you work hard and allow yourself time to get good at things.
2. Deprioritize your career when your kids are young
If you have skills, commitment and passion, careers tend to take care of themselves. Over the long haul, it really doesn’t matter if you have a few years when your career is in canter mode while you prioritize young children. This should apply to men and women. Childhood is fleeting. When it is in its formative stages, you get one chance.
3. Management is about people, not things
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that all people are equal, behave the same every day and have a generic capacity to perform. Humans are simply not made like that. Business guru Jack Welch says the workforce consists of 20 percent of people who are high performers, 10 percent that you should get rid of and 70 percent who do okay. The problem is the 70 percent. Most managers want everyone in the 20 percent. We need to be careful not to believe that the 70 percent are underperformers. Sometimes we need to celebrate the competence of the masses not the superpowers of the elite. As managers, we are not managing things, we are empowering people and making the best use of whatever it is they bring to the table.
4. Don’t just network with people your own age
Beware the whiz kid syndrome. Smart, young people have a habit of forming communities of other smart young people and feeding off each other’s energy. In the older world they are seen as “bright young things” that give confidence that the future is in good hands. Argghhhh. How many times have you heard that? Youth enclaves can actually be restrictive. Smart 20-somethings should make sure they network with older people too. In fact their networking should be about meeting useful mentors and career champions who can open doors and fast track careers. Similarly, older, successful people shouldn’t just sit in musty clubs talking about the 1970s. They should be proactively seeking out smart, young people who can shake them out of their comfort zone and open their eyes to new ideas.
5. Take the time to understand what your business does
I love the story of President J F Kennedy’s visit to NASA during which he asked a cleaner what his job was. The cleaner replied that he sent rockets to the moon. All of us should feel part of what our organizations actually do. We should take the time to be part of the big picture and always feel connected with the true objectives of our workplace. Don’t wait for someone to tell you or lament that internal communication is crap. Find out for yourself.
6. Never sacrifice personal ethics for a work reason
Crucial to workplace happiness is value alignment. If you work somewhere that compromises your personal ethics and values, get out of there as quickly as you can. Good people will be unnerved by things that don’t feel right. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Bad things only manifest when good people don’t take a stand.
7. Recognize that failure is learning
As bizarre as it might sound, failing is not failure. Researchers recognize that failure is just part of a process to eliminate unsuccessful options. To misquote Woody from Toy Story, when we make a few mistakes, we are not failing, just falling - with style. Even fairy-tale princesses recognize that you need to kiss a lot of toads before you find a handsome prince. Thomas Edison articulated this best: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” If we fear failure we tend to take a minimalist approach to our jobs and the opportunities around us. Takes some risks. Sometimes failing spectacularly is the best evidence that we are alive, human and serious about aspiring to the extraordinary. There is no value in being ordinary when you have the capacity to be remarkable.