The elements that help build a successful career are complex and include talent, ability, the timing of opportunities, networking, and socialising. The person must be able to get things done efficiently in the organisation and to bring about changes when the climate is right.
THE only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary. For many years I have asked Singapore managers what advice they would give to someone starting out in their career if they want to be successful.
Most managers usually began discussing the importance of talent, education, and hard work. Then they considered other attributes such as time management and communication skills. This led to the importance of networking and help from influential people the person knows. They usually agree that who you know is more important than what you know.
Then there was discussion about integrity, self-discipline, the benefits of life-time learning, and the necessity of keeping up with new technology.
So the elements that help build a successful career are complex and include talent, ability, the timing of opportunities, networking, and socialising. The person must have the ability to get things done efficiently in the organisation and be able to bring about changes when the climate is right.
All these may sound overwhelming to a young person embarking on a career, but don’t despair, there is plenty to do to increase your chances of achieving a successful career.
Here are some of the main points of advice the Singapore managers decided were most important:
Keep Upgrading Your Skills
Look to the future not to the past. Continuously seek new information and develop new skills. Peer group workshops are always good value. Interact with others to improve your confidence and communication skills.
Extra qualifications are easy to carry around and may make a difference when next applying for a new job, or if a senior position becomes vacant.
Take responsibility for tasks whenever an opportunity occurs. Don’t make excuses or say “I am too busy”. Many confidence and leadership skills can be learnt by joining organisations outside your company. There are many organisations such as service and sports clubs where you can increase your confidence by taking a leadership role. You will meet new people, make new contacts, and set up fresh networks.
Set High Standards If you are trustworthy and keep your promises,
people will respect you. Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. Integrity is acquired over many years by following the good examples set by mentors you respect and leaders you admire. Maintain their high standards and aim to get your staff to do the same.
Be Sensitive to Others
Building empathy with people is the key to establishing a successful relationship with family, clients, and colleagues. To do this well, you must make time to chat and to find out people’s interests, needs, and desires.
The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is still as important as it was years ago. It is perhaps the most successful rule for success in business, and in life.
Honesty and modesty are two important attributes which people respect and admire.
Become a Skilled Communicator
Success will largely depend on your ability to get your ideas accepted by others. This means speaking clearly and succinctly and being able to make sound presentations. You will need to prepare effective visual aids so everyone in your audience can see and read them.
You should be able to write simply and clearly so your readers will fully understand your messages. Don’t take these things for granted. Get others to check your messages to see if they fully understand your recommendations.
Learn to Ask Questions and Listen Carefully
When you want to gather information or consult people about problems, take time to exchange a few pleasantries so they feel at ease. Then you can ask leading questions about what, why, when, where, and how?
If you give people your undivided attention they will respond by giving new information. You will find good listeners are often popular. Others will say: “I like him. He listens to what I say.”
Offer More Than Expected Make a conscious effort to do more than people expect. Try to give people extra service, be they a client or your boss.
If you are preparing a report, make it attractive, and set it out well. Keep it simple with hard facts and solid recommendations.
If a client wants a product, go out of your way to deliver it and give a demonstration on how it works in their environment. If a product is faulty, aim to replace it quickly.
Get Things Done on Time Earn a reputation for getting tasks done on time. The important people in any organisation are the achievers—the ones who have earned a reputation for doing the essential tasks promptly and well.
Today there is increasing pressure on everyone’s time. Learn to get your priorities right and ration your time so you make the best use of it.
Set realistic deadlines for important tasks and tell others your plans. There is nothing like a deadline for focusing the mind and getting things done.
Build Strong Teams You are only as good as the people who work for you. Select strong teams. Be fussy with the people you recruit. Don’t let other people select your staff for you and don’t recruit “clones”. You need people with different backgrounds and a variety of different skills.
If you have inherited someone else’s team, find out their strengths and weaknesses and retrain them, if necessary. When you discover their strengths you can often make greater use of them by relocating them to different jobs.
Master the Art of Delegation Top jobs go to people who know how to delegate routine tasks to others. Learn the art of delegation and how you can use it to encourage and help motivate people.
Give people responsibilities to make decisions. Delegation means delegating responsibility, authority, and accountability. This will give you more time to concentrate on the more important jobs of planning, organising, motivating workers, and talking to clients.
Delegation is a great way to both test and train people for increased responsibility, so delegate some tasks to see how workers respond and react under pressure.
Ask for Solutions, not Problems
Train your people to come up with solutions to their problems. Encourage them to problem-solve before asking you for advice.
Hold Better Meetings
You must be able to chair a meeting with confidence. If it is essential to hold a meeting, make sure there is a clear objective. Plan to make your meetings both productive and enjoyable.
Always make the most of the talent and experience you have. Review and summarise often and record recommendations. Make sure you get firm commitments from people for responsibilities to carry out specific tasks. Well-run meetings can be innovative and a big help in team building.
Who You Know Can Make a Difference If you have impressed people with your integrity and your attitude to work, doors will open for you. People prefer to give tasks to workers they know and trust.
Lead a Balanced Life
Pace yourself so you have time with your family, to play, to network, to relax, and to keep up to date with developments in your field. Don’t work through your holidays. These are necessary to “charge your battery” so you return to work refreshed.
Watch your diet, monitor your health, and exercise regularly. Moderation in all things can help you achieve a successful and enjoyable career.
Geoffrey Moss is a New Zealand author and trainer.