Many executives have told me that the journey through their career was much more fun than the arrival at their ultimate career destination. Why is that? Here are a few reasons given to me:
- When you’re moving through your career, much of your achievements are based on your own individual efforts. When you’re at the top, results are through the efforts of others. Doing is much more fun than hoping, watching and waiting.
- As you move up through the organization, your interacting with peers to achieve results. At the top, you have no peers. Your it! As they say, “It’s lonely at the top!”
- When working on problems, you have people to bounce ideas around and discuss alternatives. When you’re at the top, you’re supposed to have answers. If you appear not to have answers, you scare subordinates.
- “I had much more fun when I was a manager. When I became a vice-president, it’s like someone turned the lights off”
You must be very good at what you do to reach the top. The question is how fast and how far can you go? Everyone has a pace and destination in mind. You also need a plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you somewhere! The key is to have a long-range destination in sight, move toward your goal in a strategic way, and enjoy the journey.
How do you determine your destination? People succeed at what they love to do. How many people do you know that are highly successful and hate what they do? From what I have experienced over the past 40 years, reaching your destination requires three fundamental things:
- You must be passionate about what you do. Unless you’re handed a boatload of money, your passion will sustain your career drive, whether you’re an entrepreneur, private, non-profit or public sector professional or consultant. Passionate people tend to work harder, longer and at a sustained high level than those who are more casual about their work.
- You’ve got to be very good at what you do. Second tier performers seldom reach their ultimate destination. High performance comes with education, the right experiences; usually with a mentor or someone to learn from, and the right organizations that fit your career needs. If your not the best at what you do, then someone else is, and that person will succeed where you may fall short.
- You need to be both a model as a leader and as a team member. Leadership is just as important as followership. Very few people, if any, can be the best at everything they do. But being a strong team member within a successful group can be just as effective as being the leader of your own team. Both are important and both will help your career.
Put these three things together and you have the greatest chance for career success.
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