10 Tips For Developing A Successful Career

Fork in Trail

"When you get to a fork in the road, take it" - Yogi Berra

When I meet with young people who are contemplating a business or marketing career, one of the questions I'm most frequently asked is "how do you get to be you?"  Said differently they're really asking, "what do we need to do in order to have the type of career opportunity and success that you seem to have had."

Early on I answered by sharing my resume and telling them the story of my career progression. Later, I realized that I was leaving out the secret sauce - the understanding that that a career path is not a straight line. It's a winding path that becomes a journey. One that is traveled in small steps that may not always appear to be headed in the right direction... until the path clears and the progress you've made becomes more evident. 

I've looked back on my career and listed the steps that the journey has taken me. It started by developing a work ethic when I was a young boy. Over time education and experience was added. With each small success came confidence and then courage. Courage to take bigger steps, to go down less familiar paths, and - perhaps most importantly - a realization of who to follow and when to lead.

Today, when asked the question I give a richer answer. In every case I encouraging them to discover their passion, see the edge, and go to fun. 
While walking today I found myself thinking about the question and was inspired to create a list of ten suggestions for developing a successful career. Here they are.
  1. Work hard.
  2. Believe you can and have the courage to act on that belief.
  3. Be curious and ask questions.
  4. Accept the project no one else wants and do it better than anyone else expects.
  5. Take detours and see what you might have otherwise missed.
  6. Take advice when it’s offered. Seek advice when it isn’t.
  7. Remain the student. Keep listening and learning.
  8. Discover and follow your passion.
  9. Be smart, but trust your gut.
  10. See the edge - Look beyond the obvious to see what others don't!
What would you add?

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  • Crane Stavig
    Jan. 29, 2013
    One thing I became known for at companies I worked at was asking the BIG questions that others assumed had already been asked.

    I worked for many name-brand northwest retailers, by the time we were working on consumer messaging (tactics) the general assumption was that the higher ups had asked all the right questions prior to us having our assignments and that we merely needed to deal with the details and implementation.

    Many times it turned out there had been communication mishaps, strategic oversights and conflicts that were avoided rather than being dealt with directly.

    I agree with your suggestions above wholeheartedly and would suggest that number 3 might be read as "be curious and ask BIG questions".
  • Patricia Belyea
    Oct. 4, 2012
    I like a list that doesn't exceed ten but here's another one. It has to do with integrity: Make good choices, easy or hard, so that others know they can always trust you to do the right thing.
  • Ellen Hiatt
    Jun. 22, 2012
    If you think you're on the wrong path, think again. It may be the opportunity to learn something invaluable.
  • David Dallaire, Fennec Consulting
    Jun. 4, 2012
    Great topic Rod, thanks for sharing. While I always feel a bit sheepish about adding anything to a completed Top Ten List, there has been one thing that has helped me over my career that relates to #2 and #3 on your list. It goes something like "Don't be afraid to be naive enough to not know you weren't qualified to do something." My biggest career jumps came from being curious and reaching out to try to get into big roles my experience had nothing to do with. In two cases, someone saw something and gave me the chance and it worked out wonderfully for both me and the company as a whole. I never let lack of experience stop me from trying something new.

    And I also love the reference to "My Way" posted by Dave here too!

    David Dallaire
  • Dave
    Jun. 4, 2012
    Love it, Rod. To add to #8, the only truly unique thing in this world is YOU. Find what makes you tick, what drives you, what you have that nobody else does. Then let that be the foundation on which you build your legacy. As Rod notes, always seek and listen to advice from others and find lessons in every experience...but never waiver from being you. If you can recite the following (from the greatest song of all time!) when you look back on your life, then you've succeeded:

    I've lived a life that's full.
    I've traveled each and every highway;
    But more, much more than this,
    I did it my way.

    I planned each charted course;
    Each careful step along the byway,
    But more, much more than this,
    I did it my way.


The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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