During the past decade, I've talked to scores of executives and managers about their careers. A recurring theme for both high-performing and high-potential professionals has been how to find the keys to a successful career amid the pitfalls and promises corporate career provide. Here are some insights to help shape, advance and revitalize the careers of executives and managers.

  • Take responsibility for managing your career. Don't wait until you're fired, laid off, burned out or fed up to revitalize your career. Reinvent your career on an ongoing basis;
  • Treat every encounter and conversation with people as an interview.  Everyone you talk to judges or evaluates your worth. Make that conversation worth something by focusing on the other person and not yourself. And you never know where the next great opportunity can come from;
  • Focus on your strengths. Do what you are best at and what you have a passion for. Don't focus on your weaknesses (unless they are glaring), you'll just make them mediocre; 
  • Don't become a workaholic; extreme workaholics overproduce and overachieve at a cost.  Typically, they burn out and never regain their previous success levels, and often pay a personal price for their behavior;
  • Balance your focus on results with a focus on people. Of course the bottom line is important, but not at the expense of people. Spend at least half your time cultivating relationships outside of work;
  • Stop being in love with the sound of your own voice.  Develop the discipline to listen 80% of the time and talk 20%. And master the use of silence;
  • Never be unemployed, not even for a day. If you get fired, or laid off, volunteer immediately somewhere for something that puts your skills, knowledge and abilities to work. The longer you are not meaningfully engaged, whether you are compensated or not, the more this will drain your energy and confidence;
  • Don't suffer an abusive boss. If you can't get the respect you deserve, leave faster than a speeding bullet. It doesn't matter if the company or boss is a superstar in terms of financial success, your sense of self-worth is more important;
  • Underpromise and overdeliver. The celebrity-professional athlete hype and heroic CEO promises of overachievement have captured the public's fancy, but artificially so, when the performers can't deliver. We tend to remember more hype, which the media feeds on, than the actual performance;
  • Find mentors. Hire a coach, seek out a trusted advisor, preferably outside your family and work.

Ray Williams Associates

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