By Jeff Hough
When thinking of career advice, a favorite movie line by Adam Sandler comes to mind. In “The Wedding Singer,” after leaving him at the altar, Sandler’s fiancé tries to explain why she left. At the end of her long-winded explanation, Sandler’s character exclaims loudly, “that’s information I could have used yesterday!”
At the midpoint of my professional life, I have been reflecting on all of the wonderful and not so wonderful career advice I’ve received over the years. Like most young people who know it all, some of the best advice went unheeded in pursuit of my own headstrong ideals.
In my relentless pursuit of ideas for this column I came across a Jessica Stillman article in Inc. Magazine about career advice based on a survey done by Quora. Someone on Quora posed the question, “What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?” The responses came pouring in.
A favorite piece of advice mentioned — one that I never got — comes from Victor Wong , CEO of PaperG. His simple advice is, “Doing your job well is not enough.”
His rationale is that just being best at a particular skill or task, doesn’t qualify you for the next level of promotion. One of the things people neglect to tell you is that to succeed at higher levels of leadership, you need a completely different set of skills.
The skill that Wong says separates people is the ability to deliver future value to the company. He states, “People who can think of what to do and deliver it are the ones who are ultimately more likely to get promoted to the top levels.”
Lower level leaders focus on the task at hand; senior level leaders have the ability to see things and deliver on those ideas. The higher up you are in leadership, the fewer instructions there are to get things done. Thus, to get ahead, you need to add value by finding creative ways to deliver value.
Another favorite piece of advice that never I received was to find my “Yoda.” Interestingly, Yoda refers to a company as much as an individual. Advice givers everywhere extoll the virtues of having a mentor, but often neglect to mention the virtue of finding the right company.
Like a good mentor, the right company will offer opportunities to experiment and try new things. For example, one of the companies that I worked for gave me the opportunity to take the lead in a project that was outside of my area of expertise. I had a great boss who understood what I wanted to do and gave me the latitude to put together the team to make it happen. The project was a success and the experience I gained positioned me for future advancement opportunities.
Like the right company, a good mentor is someone who will listen to you and offer suggestions. The real power of mentors comes from them telling you what you don’t want to hear, but need to hear. I was a struggling loan officer until one of my mentors took me aside and gave me insight into what was keeping me from being successful. After taking stock of the advice and putting faith in their counsel, I soon became a top producer and was promoted to branch manager within a year.
Success is defined by many parameters, but ultimately it boils down to being happy with who you are and where you’re at. Your professional career is yours to define and is made up of many seemingly insignificant moments that ultimately shape you.
Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.