Five Keys to Career Success

Five tips I like because they're potent but may not be obvious.

Posted Jan 18, 2015

Don’t let the cement dry. My daughter got a job in the White House. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was to answer letters to Socks, the Clintons’ cat. I told her: “Right now, your feet are in wet cement. Unless you get pulled out now, you’ll probably be stuck there. Tell your boss, ‘I’m willing to pay my dues but I believe I could contribute more. I’m a pretty good writer and researcher,” In two weeks, my daughter was writing Hillary’s daily briefing. The Moral: Don’t like your first job description? Tactfully ask for a change. Ask for what you want.. As long as it’s ethical, ask for what you want.

Frequently ask your boss and even coworkers, “How can I make your life easier?” Asking that will show your willingness to be a team player and ensure that the work you’re doing will be valued.

Think time-effectiveness. Ongoing, ask if yourself, "Is this worth doing?" And if so, how perfectionistically?" Just as we drive faster or slower depending on the situation, we should choose the right speed for tackling a task.

Train for your promotion. What’s the next job you want? What skills and knowledge don’t you yet have?

Tell quest stories. Everyone knows that a great way to persuade is to tell a story. Less well-known is that a particularly powerful form of story is the quest story: Describe a problem and the travails of trying to solve it, ideally a problem you tackled. For example, Iet’s say I was a manager at a marketing firm trying to inspire my new hires, here's a quest story: “One of our clients was a brewery trying to figure out how in the world to differentiate it in the market. We  had 100 people taste it and we noticed that the demographic that was most enthusiastic was blue-collar Southerners. So we called it Bubba’s Brew and it’s selling well, really well.”

Summary: Ask for what you want, ask boss and coworkers how you can make their life easier, train for your promotion, and tell quest stories. Those can be real career boosters.