No matter how many times mentors say them, there are eight golden nuggets of been-there-done-that wisdom that no one (well, almost no one) ever follows; never-fail insights that would make a significant impact on the careers of many… if (sigh) anyone would actually follow them:
1. Follow Up
I have no idea why we collectively fail at follow-up. Laziness; fear of success; a failure to prioritize, perhaps. I just know that about 2% of those who take a business card, or say they will follow up… actually do.
Want to stand out among all your competition – no matter what you hope to achieve? Follow up.
2. Personalize Everything
Think those generic connection requests on LinkedIn and auto-DMs on Twitter will get you noticed in a positive way? Think that generic cover letter and resume will get you an interview?
Wrong. In today’s world, every communication you send must be personalized. Period.
3. Make a To-Do List
“I don’t do to-do lists” is one of the biggest red flags in the professional world. No matter how you keep track – pen and paper, smartphone, laptop, iPad – a to-do list is a mandatory element of staying organized and being able to properly prioritize your next activity.
Suggestion: try the “CNN” method of listing tasks, which by default helps you prioritize:
- C = “Critical”
- N = “Need to do”
- N = “Nice to do”
4. Find a Mentor (Lots of Mentors!)
One of the key traits of crazy-successful careerists comes down to one thing: the existence of professional mentors. Perhaps a stable of them, or a “Personal Board of Advisors”.
Not sure where to find mentors? LinkedIn Groups are a place to start. Or participate in Twitter chats, which mentor goldmines; #InternPro chat and/or #jobhuntchat on Twitter, each Monday evening starting at 9pm and 10pm ET, are two of the best.
5. Read… Always Read
Check out the autobiography of any major innovator… insatiable reading is near the top of everyone’s “must follow advice” list. Blogs, books, white papers, best practices, rants… it doesn’t matter what you read. Just read.
And get your brain moving in a direction different than it might be used to going.
6. Present Yourself as a Problem Solver
In our current economy, every organization is trying to do more with less. There is just no room for automatons who simply “do their job”. Every recruiter or boss now seeks innovative thinkers who provide solutions… or at least ideas that contribute to solutions. They want those who will generate impact.
How to do that?
- Identify a challenge.
- Think – or build a team to think – of a solution.
- Present the solution.
- Actively listen to the feedback.
- Improve the solution.
7. Own “It”
It doesn’t matter what “it” is. It could be that big challenge that needs a solution. Or maybe it’s the bathroom that needs cleaning. Or, just maybe it’s a mistake made. No matter what is thrown at you, or to you… own it.
How do you project this in-demand trait? Take on this mindset: “This is my job to do. I will do it to the best of my ability. Once done, I will ask for more responsibility.” Not a bad way to go through a career.
8. Know This: All Anyone Cares About is… Results
My personal favorite, especially when someone says: “But I worked really hard on that!”
In the real world, it does not matter one little bit how much effort you put into a project. The only thing that matters is… results. How does your work measure up against milestones? Did you meet the goals of the project? Did you exceed expectations?
If not… the last thing you want to talk about to a boss, mentor or potential employer is how hard you worked… to achieve nothing.
As you build your career, be the 5% who will follow this career-changing advice. And don’t be afraid to pass it along to others. Just don’t be surprised when they don’t listen (but be incredibly grateful for those who do… that’s when the magic happens!)