When it comes to success in the cubicle, it’s easy to get lost in all of the 20-ways to do this and 10-ways to do that. Yes, the tactics are useful, but tactics without strategy doesn’t really get you anywhere.
Looking at your career, then, take a look at these five strategies for career success and then see how all those tactics can fit into your work.
1. Your manager is your most important customer
There is a tremendous amount of talk about servicing the customer. Or making sure the customer is taken care of in all situations. Or that customers drive the business.
All true. And all false.
Where most people miss it, though, is they hear those sayings and assume the customer is the person buying your company’s goods and services.
That’s not the case (although important). Working in any corporation, the most important customer is your manager.
Your manager is the person who supports your works and career — or can submarine it in a New York minute. You can get the tasks that will help you improve your job skills or your manager will give those lucrative tasks to someone else.
Your manager can work wonders with your performance review — and subsequent raise and bonus — or your manager can dial that review back.
Your manager can work with other managers to help you advance your career or quietly ensure you’ll never get another job in the company.
In short, if you are not doing what your manager wants you doing in the way your manager wants to do them, you are not succeeding. Yes, there is a need for your good business judgement and suggestions, but once your manager makes a decision about the way to go, that’s the way you go.
You may not agree with the decision or approach and some point it may become unbearable and you’ll need to leave, but ignoring your manager’s needs and wishes for your work is foolish.
2. Have skills, stay employed
Job skills are the currency of staying employed. The more job skills you have, the more likely you will get the interview — especially if you can show how you used your job skills to achieve business results.
Always be looking to advance your job skills. Take on the work that will give you new skills or will support you getting better at the ones you have.
There are lots of ways to not get the job when you need one. The most basic is that your skills don’t match the needs of the job description. Think about how much has changed in the last five years relating to technology, business processes, and what is needed now in a knowledge economy.
Do your skills match up? A good way to tell is go out and search ten job descriptions for the position you are in or want to have — and then see how much of the job description’s job skills you can check off. Doing this will tell you where you need to get to to get current.
3. Understanding office politics will lead to long-term success
People hate office politics; I get it. That shouldn’t prevent you from figuring out what those politics are and how they impact getting your work done.
Figuring out how to work with some one or some group to have success is important in that it shows managers — or other employers — how you work through difficult situations and still accomplished your goals.
So figure it out.
4. Job search is your most important skill – and least used
Every job has its own job skills. Nursing is different than engineering and engineering is different than database management.
We’re not very good at the job search process because we don’t use it that much. And when we do, or have to, it’s almost like starting over. Rebuild your resume. Wonder about how the process works now compared to the last time you did a job search.
Keeping job search skills current will put you far out in front of most people looking for work.
5. Employment security trumps job security
To be clear, there is no job security. None.
Now, it’s not like I want you to feel fear about your job all the time, but too many people think that because they have a full-time job at some company it means they don’t have to worry about their job.
There is simply no way for you to protect yourself, no matter how fabulous you think you are, in any single job.
So job security doesn’t exist. But employment security does. It’s really the only protection your have — your ability to stay employed by having job skills, results, networking, job search skills and financial backing is the answer.
It takes a while to build up employment security. But having employment security means you don’t have to keep a horrible job because you have no way out. It means other employers will want to hire you — and you won’t be desperate to take any job just because it is a job.
These are not the only ways to succeed in a career, of course. But I’d suggest these five traits will take you pretty far on the path of career success.
What else would you say makes a successful career?