Taking Control Of Your Career

This post is by Phil La Duke, a partner in the Performance Assurance Practice for ERM. La Duke has over 20 years of training, performance improvement, and lean manufacturing experience. Here's a quick roundup of some of my favorite tips for building a great career.
  • To Thine Own Self Be True. It can be a precarious balance between trusting what you know is right and listening to advice from people with more experience. You have to trust your gut while at the same time considering that people may be right when they think you're crazy. Don’t fret. Copernicus, Einstein and Jobs all had their detractors. Then again, for every misunderstood genius there are 100 perfectly understood idiots.
  • Nobody Has a Monopoly on the Truth. Society tends to revere those who are staunch and unyielding in their beliefs. That's dangerous. It’s wise to listen to a variety of opinions and learn from as many people as you can, but never mistake stubbornness for conviction or conviction for wisdom.
  • Pay Attention to Personal Branding. Personal branding is the centerpiece to any professional success. Do some serious soul searching into how others perceive you and how you want them to perceive you. Everything matters: from how you "show up" for things like meetings, to your email, to interaction with colleagues, to how you dress and the language that you use.
  • Network. Everyone matters. Stay in touch and on good terms with as many people that you meet as you can. Do favors for people without reminding them that they owe you. Ask people to do you favors and remember that you owe them. (People will always stay in touch with people who owe them favors).
  • Read Widely. Perhaps the most powerful tool for professional growth is reading. Read, but read with hard eyes and a skeptical heart. Seek out things with which you disagree and dismantle the arguments they make ONLY after you have truly heard them with an open mind. Understand that your deepest held values of today may embarrass and shame you tomorrow; it's a natural part of growth.
  • Be Generous with Credit, Stingy with Blame. Who gets the credit for things really doesn't matter in the long run. If your boss takes credit for your idea, recognize two things: It's your job to make your boss look good, and nobody believes that your boss suddenly got smarter the day you started working for him/her. Similarly, be stingy with blame; who is at fault isn't as important as how you contribute to fixing things and making sure it doesn't happen again.
  • Persevere. Life's lessons are painful, and unless you find yourself scared, stressed, or in some way unsettled by life's lessons you probably aren't learning or growing too much. The most important values you will have in life typically come out of the crucible of fear and anxiety.
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