If you never try, you’ll never know…
Anyone who aspires to achieve career success first needs a potent plan to find their place in the fluid 21st century workplace.
This is Part 2 of my 10-point career success plan, which is applicable to people of all ages — as previously noted. However, I believe this plan is especially ripe for younger Millennials (Gen Y) and older members of Generation Z as they enter the workforce and embark on new careers.
Nevertheless, even if you’re a Boomer or Gen Xer (like me) it’s never too late to change jobs, embrace a new profession and achieve career success.
Recap of Part 1
Following is a brief recap of the initial four points of the plan as articulated in my prior article:
1) Define Your Vision: Begin with a dream or vision of career success. Be bold, think big and be specific. Narrowly tailor your work goals to definitive steps in an incremental hierarchy of achievement.
2) Build Bridges: Obtain the academic and professional credentials to position yourself in a competitive marketplace. Then find mentors in your areas of interest.
Finding good mentors to help you learn and advance along the way is of critical importance to bridging any gaps in age and work experience.
3) Dare to Think Big: Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Dare yourself to take risks in order to plant the seeds of success. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. Recall the saying: “No risk, no reward.”
4) Leverage the Four Ps: Perseverance, positivity, personality and politeness all go a long way toward achieving success of any kind in life. Don’t invent artificial reasons why you can’t achieve your professional goals. Don’t talk yourself out of potential career success before even trying.
Be positive, personable, polite and persevere. Also, remember to be humble, kind and to never burn professional bridges along the way.
- Following are the latter six points of the plan…
5) Network, Network, Network
No, that’s not a typo. Rather it’s analogous to that old saying in real estate: location, location, location. The same applies to career advancement in general and networking in particular.
It’s not only important to work harder and smarter with new technology, but also to nurture key professional relationships through networking online and in-person.
These VIP relationships can help pave the way toward career advancement. My advice: be fearless, relentless and tireless when networking. Knock on every appropriate door. Leave no proverbial stone unturned. This means reaching out to influencers, executives and experts in your industry.
You’ve probably heard the saying: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I would add this caveat per MSNBC political commentator and author, Chris Matthews, in his book Hardball (which predates the long-running TV talk show of the same name):
“It’s not only who you know, but who you get to know well.”
- Who will go to bat for you when needed?
- Who will provide a good recommendation?
- Who will put you in touch with the right contacts?
That’s the true test of networking. You may know a lot of people, but what good is that if they brush you off?
Networking Online & Off
Today’s job seekers are fortunate to have a plethora of social media networking tools at their fingertips. And while this certainly makes the networking process easier, it should not supersede it by serving as a safety blanket.
Although social media networking is a great start, it’s also important to meet your connections in person — which solidifies new relationships and makes you stand out in a crowd of job seekers.
Let’s face it, most young people today appear more eager to text than talk. They would rather use Facebook than meet face to face. But remember this:
Career networking involves more than social media alone. That’s just one tool to jump start the process. But it can’t replace the human element.
Thus, try meeting those in your professional network for lunch, coffee or drinks. You can also just stop by their office to say hello. If geography is problematic, then use live streaming to connect virtually.
What if meeting in person is not possible in the short term?
In that case, send VIP contacts periodic emails, cards or hand written letters. They will likely be impressed by your persistent efforts. Then try to meet in person at a later date when convenient for them.
Remember that your VIP contacts are super busy, of course, so always be patient and polite in reaching out for their assistance.
6) Reject the Naysayers
The bigger your dream, the more likely that people will tell you it’s out of reach — if not impossible. Others may try to convince you to enter a different profession or pursue another career path.
I recall many people at the time telling me I had no chance of reaching my dream job at a young age. But it only really matters what you think. Thus, trust your gut instincts and intuition.
Don’t let the negativity of others steer you off course. Rather, believe in yourself, believe in your dreams and stick to the plan. Be positive and persistent.
7) Visualize & Affirm It
In your mind, see yourself having successfully accomplished the goal. Make positive affirmations and feel the corresponding emotions.
My ultimate goal as a young person was to work in the White House for a future president (Democrat) after graduating from college. And, as it turned out, a high-level internship in Congress proved to be instrumental.
During the internship, I developed close working relationships with some rising stars on Capitol Hill, like George Stephanopoulos, for example. George was a senior legislative advisor to then House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt of St. Louis, Mo.
The more I visualized and affirmed my ultimate goal, the closer it became.
As it turned out, George and others who had mentored me took high-level jobs on Governor Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. I followed in their footsteps by working on the staff of the campaign’s chief pollster, for whom I had also interned in college.
This led to an assignment in the Presidential Transition Office after Election Day, which resulted in my landing a White House political appointment at age 23. I worked as a staffer in the Office of Presidential Personnel and then for the White House Budget Director as a press aide.
In hindsight, I believe that regularly visualizing and affirming my big goal helped make the long-shot dream job become a reality.
It’s essential to have faith and know in your heart that nothing will stop you from reaching your goals.
It’s also imperative to realize that nearly anything is possible if you sincerely believe in yourself and your abilities.
Here’s a great example, particularly for young people who may doubt their budding talent and ability:
Russell Wilson is an NFL star quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks (pictured below). He’s also a Millennial who led his team to a surprise Super Bowl victory in 2014.
Yet Wilson was an undersized and under-rated quarterback at the time. But that didn’t stop him, despite his many detractors. Here’s Wilson’s advice:
- “My dad used to always tell me, Russ, why not you?”
- “And what that meant was believe in yourself, believe in the talent God has given you, and you can go a long way.”
Therefore, pose the same question to yourself when pondering whether you should aim high in attempting to secure a dream job: Why not me?
An ambitious career plan and self-confidence are essential ingredients of work success.
9) Leverage Luck & Timing
The powerful combination of luck and timing is an intangible factor in achieving professional success at any age.
Yet the more prepared and well positioned you are to achieve a big work goal, the more likely that luck and timing will be pivotal factors.
I’m reminded of an old adage, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
For instance, I did everything in my power back then to best position myself for unique professional opportunities at a young age. Then I seized those opportunities despite the odds.
Further, my goal and vision of working in the White House started years before I had even heard of Bill Clinton — then an obscure governor of Arkansas and not a household name in national politics. But, interestingly enough, the more I worked toward the big goal, networked and believed in my dream, the luckier I appeared to get.
Remember: If you never try, then you’ll never know what’s possible. The NHL hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
10) Never Give Up
Finally, if you don’t succeed at first, then keep trying. Redouble your efforts, revamp your game plan, and persevere.
Don’t give up at the first sign of failure. Rather, consider initial failure as a stepping stone along the way to achieving success.
It’s a fact that most successful people throughout history first overcame great adversity and failure prior to reaching big goals. The key is learning from your mistakes and forging ahead with renewed vigor.
The irony is that the more successful you become, the less people tend to remember the initial failures which preceded your grand achievements.
Therefore, don’t give up too early and prematurely forfeit potential success. Too many people hit major roadblocks and take an easier and more conventional path. Don’t give up on your dreams and settle for something less without first exhausting your full pontial.
Again, you don’t want to look back later in life thinking about what might have been had you only worked harder and persevered longer.
Whoever you are, no matter how far away your professional dreams may appear, recall that anything is possible if you are totally committed to the ultimate goal and don’t give up.
In essence, by acting on the aforementioned 10-points and principles in a strategic and deliberate manner, you may find unique job opportunities opening up at any age or stage of your career.
In fact, your dream job may materialize before you know it.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. A native New Yorker, David was a journalist prior to his career of public service. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.