How to Have Career Success

The formula for career success is simple: Use your strengths!

When thinking about your career and how to have a successful career and how you want it to pan out, there is one thing and one thing only that you need to do. That is to find things that allow you to use your innate strengths (ideally that someone will compensate you for).

Playing to your strengths is simply the best advice that really exists. Whether you look at advice from well known successful people or experts in careers, it all boils down to this. Now if you can also find a job that you like, then happiness, as well as career success, can be yours.

You may be reading this and thinking: sounds great in theory but the real world doesn’t work like that. You may be thinking, good for you, but I could never make those decisions OR my career is different and I would never have the chance to decide for myself. Well, let me ask you one question: if you are not making your own career decisions, who is making them for you?

Quite simply decisions get made in the course of anyone’s career. Now you can decide to make them or not. But if you do not, then someone else will. Whether it is your boss or the company you work for or your parents. Someone will fill the void. Someone will make career decisions on your behalf. Clearly, this is not a good idea. Letting (either actively or passively) someone else make your career decisions means that you miss the chance to choose jobs and roles that play to your strengths. You likely end up working jobs that: a) you did not want in the first place, and b) that you are not optimally suited to (i.e. they do not allow you to utilize your strengths). Because guess what, you know you best.

For clarity, when I talk about career decisions, I am referring to the 3 true career decisions that actually exist (Stay, Go or Switch). So that even if you stay in a job (even if you do not like it), you need to decide to actively Stay. These 3 decisions are the decisions you should be making for your career, to give yourself the best possible chance of being successful (and happy).

Here’s the deal: in the vast majority of professions, a range of jobs and roles exist. In marketing, there are advertising, content, design, analytics, and operations. In medicine, there are doctors, nurses, administration, pharmacy, and research etc. The point I am making is that within each profession there is a spectrum of jobs and each requiring different strengths to succeed. So you have decisions to make whatever and wherever you currently find yourself.

One could even make an argument that getting experience across multiple types of roles actually prepares you better for your career. Indeed, Harvard research shows that on average, people who hold multiple roles climb the career ladder faster.

I want to leave you with some great advice I recently heard in an interview with Patty McCord (ex-chief talent officer for Netflix, and Silicon Valley veteran). She said that careers are an ongoing dance between employees and employers whereby each is trying to find their sweet spot so they can play to their strengths and excel. What I love about this advice is that it implies infinite possibility and a dynamic ever-changing situation. So whatever stage you are at, it truly does not matter, focus on your strengths and the rest will follow!

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