Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The 6 Career Secrets No One Ever Told You

Recently I read a comic book by Daniel H. Pink. The book name is called The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need.

Johnny Bunko is an ordinary person. He did what everybody (parents, teachers, counselors) told him to do. But now, stuck at a dead-end job, he begun to suspect that where he thought he knew is just plain wrong.

One bizarre night, Johnny meets Diana, the unlikeliest career adviser he ever seen. She reveals to Johnny the six essential lessons for thriving in the world of work.

Here are the six most important lessons of a satisfying, successful career.

1. There is no plan

Many people believe they can map out every step ahead of time and end up where they want. But that is a fantasy. The world always changes. Ten years from now, your job might be in other countries. Your industry might not even exist. You will change and you might discover a hidden talent.

You need to make smart choices. You can make career decisions for two different types of reasons. You can do instrumental reasons, because you think it is going to lead to something else, regardless of whether you enjoy it or it is worthwhile or you can do something for fundamental reasons, because you think it is inherently valuable, regardless of what it may or may not lead to.

The dirty little secret is that instrumental reasons usually don't work. Things can become too complicated, too unpredictable. You will never know what is going to happen and you end up stuck. Most of time, successful people make decisions for fundamental reasons. They take a job or join a company because it will let them do interesting work in a cool place, even if they don't know exactly where it will lead.

2. Think strengths, not weaknesses

Research has found that the key to success is to steer around your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. Successful people don't try too hard to improve what they are weak at. They capitalize on what they good at.

Start asking yourself questions like:

What are my strengths?

What do I do consistently well?

What gives me energy rather than drains it?

What sorts of activities create 'flow' for me? ( Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. )

3. It is not about you

It is about your customers. It is about your clients. Successful people improve their own lives by improving others' lives. They help their customers solve their problems. The most valuable people in any job bring out the best in others. They make their boss look good. They help their teammates succeed.

4. Persistence trumps talent

The people who achieve the most are often the ones who stick with it when others don't. They show up, they practice and practice and practice some more. That is why they do so well in whatever career they choose.

A little bit improves performance, which encourages greater persistence, which improves performance even more. Lack of persistence works the same way but only in the opposite direction.

The world is littered with talented people who did not persist, who did not put in the hours, who gave up too early, who thought they could ride on talent alone. Meanwhile, people who might have less talent pass them by.

Intrinsic motivation is important, doing things not to get an external rewards like money or promotion, but because you simply like doing it. The more intrinsic motivation you have, the more likely you are to persist. The more you persist, the more likely you are to succeed.

5. Make excellent mistakes

Too many people spend their time avoiding mistakes. They are so concerned about being wrong, about messing up, that they never try anything. Their focus is avoiding failure and that is actually is crummy way to achieve success.

The most successful people make spectacular mistakes. Each time they make a mistake, they get a little better and move a little closer to excellence.

6. Leave an imprint

As you get older and look back at your life, you will start asking yourself a whole bunch of questions like:

Did I contribute something?

Did I make a difference?

Did my being here matter?

Many people get towards the end of their lives and don't like their answer. By then it is almost too late and so start asking yourself those questions today.

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