When we’re young, we imbibe the view that our careers will progress linearly. When we leave college, we will get an “entry-level” job, we’re told. Then over time, as our experience grows, we will move up the ranks until, eventually, we’re top of the pile.
In reality, though, that’s rarely how it works out. Plenty of capable, talented people spend years of their lives languishing in low-pay work, never getting to where they want to go. Eventually, they become disillusioned- burned out, even. And that’s when things can go wrong very quickly.
Even people who do get ahead often have it rough. The price of rising through the ranks is usually giving up evenings and weekends and focusing solely on the work. Putting in seventy hours a week might get you more money eventually, but it probably isn’t your idea of the perfect life – far from it.
Some people, though, manage to get the careers they want without killing themselves in the process. How do they do it? What’s their secret? And, as a busy parent, what can you learn from them?
Because of school, we tend to believe that our contribution to a company comes down to our performance metrics. If we’re making more sales than other people, we assume that we’re on the right track and adding value. But, remember, businesses aren’t just mechanisms that filter people according to their skills. There’s an essential human element too.
Smart workers know this, which is why they focus on low-effort, but high-impact ways to increase their contribution to the firm. Being enthusiastic about everything is their secret weapon. They project an image of energy, talent, and commitment to the cause. They’re infectious in their love of their work, and management soon takes notice. Often, it doesn’t matter if their performance is shoddy. Skilled leaders know that enthusiasm is more important for management positions than the actual ability to perform the work. It sounds weird, but it’s true.
Be True To Yourself
Nobody is a better judge of your skills than you are. You know what you can and can’t do, and where your talents lie.
Even so, many workers get into the habit of believing that they must continuously work on their weaknesses. Companies do something similar, always asking candidates where their faults lie and what they’re doing to improve them.
However, the reality is that continually hammering away at your weaknesses is never going to lead you to the promised land. Nobody can be good at everything. And when you try to be perfect, you’re attempting to swim uphill – something that will permanently exhaust you.
If possible, try to go with the flow. Specialize in the things you can really do well and forget about the rest. If you’re not a people person, work freelance. If you don’t like maths, do something creative. Don’t be something you’re not!
Don’t Allow Work To Become Your Life
It’s okay to spend a lot of time at work. But people who get ahead in their careers without killing themselves realize that their lives and their work are two entirely separate things. For many of us, our jobs are simply tools we use to get what we want out of life: fulfillment, money, time for friends, and holidays. Unless you have a vocation, your career isn’t the core mission of your life. It’s just something you do to get by.
There’s nothing wrong with having a professional life. It can be a lot of fun. But when you attach your self-worth to it, it suddenly becomes a millstone around your neck. Avoid the temptation to do that if you can.
Employers want rounded people with the skills to get the job done. What they don’t want are individuals who just do things to tick certain boxes hoping that employers will hire or promote them. That’s inauthentic and boring.
Instead, use your career experience to build mastery. Become somebody who can solve problems and get on top of issues quickly. Let your creativity fly, and focus on the end-goal of the process, not the minutiae of getting there.
Once you strip the need to update your CV continually, you stop being a robotic employee and become somebody with deep, crystallized intelligence in your chosen field.
Try To Do Something Outstanding Once Per Year
Going above and beyond the call of duty all the time is a massive drain on your physical, mental, and emotional energy. But smart operators know that they only need a few highly publicized wins to drive their careers forward.
Instead of working flat out the whole year round, be on the lookout for projects where you can genuinely excel. Complete these to perfection and then use that to move the needle. Talk about these on your CV and, if possible, include your wins in company press releases. Do whatever you can to demonstrate your competence and make sure people notice. A bit of self-promotion can go a long way.
Plodding away, working ten hours per day for year after year, is a disaster for your wellbeing. Routines will eventually wear you down, leading to all kinds of dysfunction and hatred of your job.
Your best bet is to switch things up now and again when you sense the time is right. If you see a job and you think you could do it, go for it. Don’t put it off. Change things, and then see how much better you feel.
Adjust Your Lifestyle
Work is tough, but when you combine it with a western lifestyle, it becomes even more difficult.
Smart people, however, don’t take the usual route. Instead, they make a conscious effort to eat well at every meal. Once they do, they find that they have more energy and that their workload suddenly becomes so much easier. It doesn’t feel like such an ordeal.
Try exercising more, eating beans and veg instead of meat, and losing weight. It all provides you with the raw energy you need to plow on and get ahead.