There’s no question that reading about successful people can be inspiring. If we’re honest though, their stories of accomplishment can be a bit overwhelming, even intimidating. It seems improbable that a corporate star rose from the mailroom to the boardroom. It seems impossible that an entrepreneur turned a single idea into a billion-dollar business. Except we know these things happen every day. They just don’t happen to us. Or do they?
The thing is, if you want to succeed you need to adopt the habits of successful people. Because many of them started with nothing –– no money, no backers, some didn’t even have a degree. They have a lot to teach us and not just about how to live large. So what are the best practices for career success and how can you use them?
It seems obvious but I’m going to say it, you’re not going to succeed at a job you hate. Think about all those billionaires who still get up and go to work every day. They aren’t doing it for the money, the power, or the prestige. They’re doing it because their work gives them joy. There’s nothing wrong with security. Unfortunately if you choose a field solely because it’s growing rapidly or pays well you may not be happy. The worlds of finance and law are filled with people struggling to make ends meet. In fact, just as there are top earners in every field there are people who barely get by. Even if you are well rewarded by a profession, if you’re miserable you’re more likely to overspend, buying things to make yourself happy. That’s why it helps to love what you do. It makes overcoming obstacles so much easier.
I think one of the best practices for career success is to find a career you’re passionate about and stick with it. If you’ve already found it, congratulations. If you haven’t, keep looking. My career in counterterrorism looked good on paper but it never brought me the joy that my work as a career counselor has.
If you’re unsure of what you want to do, start by taking some career assessments. Based on the work of Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) reveals your personality type and puts you in one of 16 categories which can help you find the ideal career. Other online assessments include Glassdoor’s What Job Best Fits Your Life?, The Princeton Review Career Test, and MyNextMove. It can take time to find the right fit –– both in assessments and life.
What do you hope to accomplish today? How about next week or next month? Goal setting is a common habit amongst successful people. Start by making a list of things you want to achieve. Be as fantastic as you like, don’t limit yourself. Then brainstorm ways to make it happen. If you want to be a sales manager, see what you need to do to increase your numbers. If you want a promotion at work, make a list of your supervisor’s pain points and how you can relieve them.
Enlist an Accountability Partner
This is a great way to achieve success. Find someone who shares your field or even just your level of ambition. Try to meet once a week, even if it’s remotely. Talk about what you want to achieve in your career and how you’ll go about it. Knowing you’re going to be talking about your goals at a set time and place can really motivate you. Plus, having a supportive accountability partner can make the hurdles you’ll face in your career goals easier to leap over.
Find a Mentor
Just because you’re a trendsetter doesn’t mean the path you’re traveling is untrammeled jungle. The road you’re on has been walked by others who at one point faced the same challenges you are facing. So don’t go it alone. If you’re an entrepreneur you might find a mentor through SCORE which connects its thousands of volunteers with people who need advice about running a small business. If you’re a corporate professional you may find a mentor at a networking event or even down the hall. When you read biographies of successful people you’ll see that they never succeeded alone. That’s why Oscar speeches are so long!
Take Care of Yourself
This one is absent from many lists about success strategies and I think that’s a mistake. Your body needs regular exercise, healthy, energy-sustaining food, and plenty of rest. Ignoring one of these three is like trying to sit on a two-legged stool. You’re likely to fall over. Exercise, for instance, has proven health benefits. No matter how busy you are, make the time for fitness. Don’t gorge on fast food because it’s fast or skimp on sleep. Keep in mind that achieving your dreams isn’t easy but it will be even harder if you feel terrible physically. Besides, even if you do succeed, what’s the point if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it?
Choosing to be successful in your career means making sacrifices. If you find work you enjoy, those sacrifices will feel well worth it long before you achieve your goals.
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