I regularly talk with college students about their upcoming careers. Some are future marketing professionals and others dream of a glamorous photography career. Both ask me for secrets to success. I’m always happy to share my ideas, amazingly they are not secrets. Unfortunately, I don’t think they believe me; the students think most of my recommendations are too easy. There must be more to it. This is why most people fail, they are chasing secrets and ignoring the common sense in front of them.
We live in a society that requires more people each year to be independent business owners, contractors and freelancers. The forty-year career at the same company is a thing of the past – even if its your company. If you are an employee for a business you don’t own, you still need the freelancers mentality.
Success in any field does not come easy. The Internet is filled with stories of people who made it to the top quickly. When you look under the hood you realize these people are one in a million and most overnight successes actually take years. Don’t fall into the career lottery trap. It works as well as people investing (gambling) in the Power Ball for their future retirement fund. Chances are if they invest the same money over the years they would actually have a retirement. Invest a little in your career everyday.
Below are 19 things that will kickstart your career at any age. You may think you are already doing some or all of these things. I recommend you take a step back and look in the mirror. There is a difference between knowing these ideas and doing them. Keeping consistent with common sense success ideas and activities is hard. That is why only a few truly succeed. Don’t wait, get to work everyday and you will be one of the successful.
- Engage in your craft everyday. The best practice continuously. A photographer needs to photograph everyday and a writer needs to write. If you are in sales, you need to sell every day, all day.
- Follow up. Create a follow-up plan. Don’t send an email and think you have done your job. Follow up at an even pace using multiple methods. Part of your plan is to know when to stop too. If you don’t get a response in two weeks, for example, let them go. Your time is valuable too.
- Ask for the sale. Most people don’t ask for what they want. Hoping people will discover you and look out for your best interest will not get you far. It’s not that they are mean, they have a lot on their plate too. If the people around you don’t know what you want, they can’t give or refer it to you.
- Connect people. When you connect two people who you think can benefit from knowing each other; you make your network stronger. Networking is powerful.
- Make it about them. Networking and social media have one thing in common. The more you connect and campion others, the more opportunities come your way.
- Ask questions.
- Keep track of the income going into your checking account and the expenses going out. Don’t put your head in the sand. A few minutes of reconcile and review every day or two will prevent hours of headaches later. Don’t mortgage your future with debt, especially unsecured debt.
- Set goals. Seriously, goals offer you direction. There is nothing wrong with changing them along the way. Your life goals are different at 55 than they were in college. Make sure you have at least three focus goals each year. It’s OK if you don’t carry out all of your goals. Working on your goals now sets you up for success in the following years.
- Follow through. Do what you say your going to do. Never hide from clients. If you know you can’t complete a task, let your client know as soon as possible. Promise what you can deliver and ship it on time.
- Don’t be the cheapest. Create your combination code to separate yourself from the competition. You are not Wal-Mart and you will not last long in your profession as the cheapest option. Don’t become a commodity.
- No one cares about your guarantee, how long you’ve been in business or your great service. Well, yes they do. Unfortunately, you can’t talk about it — only your happy customers are allowed to share this information (so make it easy for them).
- Make it easy to do business with you. You must protect yourself, that is why you have insurance. Unfortunately, too many business owners spend a great effort to prevent all loss. The result is they make it tough for good customers to do business with them. Don’t punish new customers for the sins of a few bad people.
- Learn to write.
- Your good attitude will win you more business. I’ve noticed through the years that when I feel great and have a big smile on my face, I win more business. Sometimes it’s worth postponing a meeting if you are in a bad mood.
- Learn to say no. Be selective about the clients and projects you accept. Saying yes to all opportunities and work that you are not qualified to do can hurt your reputation. You are better off developing a network of professionals to refer opportunities.
- Everything you do is marketing. They way you answer the phone, your invoice design, the quality of the materials you use, the way you present your product or service. Anything that touches people, including your vendors and employees is marketing.
- Never stop learning. The moment you stop learning your business and career is immediately on the downward slide. Never believe you know everything. Read, test and try new ways to doing things. There is always a next step.
- Keep good people around you. The best managers hire people smarter than themselves. Don’t be afraid of people who challenge you. You don’t always have to agree or compromise with them. Fortunately, they will try to stop you from running off a cliff when you make poor decisions. Join organizations with people who know more than you and regularly take successful people to lunch.
- Say thank you. This alone will keep customers coming back and refer your product or service. Send a card, gift or make a phone call just to say how much you appreciate their business.
What would you add?