Tips to a Successful Career

Maybe you can't exactly curl up with your career at night, but that career is still rather important, keeping you busy during much of your waking hours and generating the income that keeps the house warm when it's cold outside. While starting and progressing through a successful career can be smooth sailing for some folks, others could use a little help and guidance. Here, then, are 10 tips that can help you get a great job and be successful in your career.

 1: Do the job to get the job
A successful career starts with landing a job in your chosen field. An often effective way to help yourself get hired is to find a way to do the job in order to get the job. This is an idea I ran across from Nick Corcodilos, of Ask the Headhunter fame, who has explained:

Don't behave like a job applicant in the job interview; behave like an employee. Show up ready to do the job in the interview show how you will do the work and contribute to profitability. By defining the work an employer needs done and showing how, exactly, you will apply your skills, you can demonstrate your value.

This approach isn't always easy or possible, but if you can find a way to pull it off, you'll make an impression with your initiative and you'll help the hirers imagine you in the position.

 2: Take feedback seriously, and even seek it out
When performance evaluation time rolls around, take it seriously. Don't dismiss or be annoyed by whatever suggestions are given for how you might improve yourself. Take them on and aim to demonstrate improvement. You might even ask peers and superiors how you could do even better in the job. This is especially useful if you're having trouble with some aspect of your work. Show initiative in wanting to improve and solicit advice instead of ignoring the problem and hoping it will resolve itself.

 3: Make your boss look good
Many people focus on promoting themselves in their workplace. It can be more effective, though, to focus on making your boss look good. By supporting your boss, you might help boost his or her career, and you'll probably end up with a more powerful advocate with an interest in keeping you around. It's good to make your coworkers look good, too, because much of your success is reflected by your team's success. In general, be nice, neat, polite, and a pleasant co-worker.

 4: Dress and act professional
The old saying suggests that you dress for the job you want, not the one you have. If it's cool for you to stick with a dress casual attire at work but those in levels above you are mostly wearing suits, it might be smart to wear suits, too. That way, people can more easily visualize you working at higher levels. Go beyond just your wardrobe, though. Be professional in meetings and when interacting with those above and below you -- and show a real dedication to the job and the company.

 5: Don't rely on email or phones too much
Taking care of business via email or phone calls can be effective, but it's also good to be interacting in person with colleagues and superiors. This can help strengthen your relationships, and some issues, questions, and suggestions can be handled best via discussion. Participate at meetings, too, offering ideas and information and asking helpful questions.

 6: Develop your network when you don't need it
If you're suddenly looking for a new gig and have to turn to your network of contacts, it's best if it's not the first time they're hearing from you in several years. Keeping in touch a little, perhaps by sending occasional articles or items of interest or by sharing occasional meals, can make people think more of you and even keep you in mind should opportunities arise. The best networks feature people who actually know you to some degree and like you, and aren't just people you met here or there

7: Say yes a lot
Try to say yes when presented with opportunities (a new position, the chance to give a big presentation, a major business trip), even if they seem scary. Getting out of your comfort zone can help you develop new skills or experiences. Say yes when colleagues ask for help, too. If you're known as someone who steps up, you'll be seen as valuable.

8: Find a mentor
Think of some superiors whom you greatly admire and see if one would be willing to be your mentor. The two of you might meet regularly to review your goals and accomplishments, and your mentor can help groom you for advancement -- and maybe advocate for you, too.

Less formally, you might apply the advice of Warren Buffett, to your workplace. Buffett suggested:

Ben Franklin did this, and my old boss Ben Graham did this at early ages in their young teens. Ben Graham looked around and he said, "Who do I admire?" And he wanted to be admired himself and he said, "Why do I admire these other people?" And he said, "If I admire them for these reasons, maybe other people would admire me if I behave in a similar manner." And he decided what kind of a person he wanted to be.

 9: Make lemonade out of lemons
If your workplace is chaotic or has gone through some trouble, there might be more opportunity than ever for you to make a noticeable difference. If you can improve productivity or morale, it will reflect well on you, your abilities, and your commitment to the company. If possible, say yes to big and small things, from a new position to a request to be a mentor. You never know what good things will come from each of these experiences.

 10: Keep learning
You never know how the world or your profession will evolve over time, so it's smart to keep learning. You might drill down to become more of an expert in your field, but you might also branch out, learning about tangential fields or developing issues -- or perhaps acquiring new skills. You want to remain valuable to your employer and valuable to other potential employers, too. Remember that learning doesn't have to be through books. You might learn a lot simply by making a point to have lunch with lots of different people at work, asking about what they do, or by spending time talking with people you can learn from.

These are just some of many possible ways you can make your career more successful. See how many you can put to use.

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