The Best-Kept Career Secrets
You’ve heard all the standard career advice: network, build your brand, follow your passion. And it’s all quality advice; don’t get me wrong. But you want more.
You’re not just a careerist; you’re a Brazen careerist. You want the inside scoop. The secrets that got the truly, brazenly successful people where they are today.
Well, we’ve got them for you—the things that only career superstars know. We’re sharing them with you only because we know you can handle them.
(You can handle them, can’t you?)
Secret #1: No one knows what they’re doing all the time
Whether you’re joining the office ranks at entry level, starting a new career, or taking on your first management position, the thing no one wants to admit is that everyone has those moments where they wonder if they’ve really got what it takes. What sets the winners apart from the losers is how you handle those doubts.
That coworker who seems so in control? She’s afraid people will see right through her and realize she’s actually flying by the seat of her pants. Your boss, who has the answer for everything, has times when he has no clue what he’s supposed to do and doubts whether he’s really management material after all.
No one is 100 percent sure of themselves at all times, from cube dwellers on up to the CEO’s office. A necessary part of growing and advancing is facing periods of uncertainty and discomfort—which keeps plenty of people smack in their comfort zones (where they’ll stay for years).
Successful people are willing to accept the fact that they won’t always know everything, to learn as they go and to exude confidence even when they don’t necessarily have it just yet. If you can go through the intimidating times with your cool calmly in place, you could be one of the few who manage to get from the cube to the CEO’s office.
Secret #2: “No one loves their job” is a load of crap
Yes, work will still be work, even if you’re doing work you love. There will be fires to put out and annoying people to deal with, and stress and deadlines don’t disappear just because you’ve found your dream job. But if you wake up every morning dreading the day ahead of you, something needs to change—and yesterday.
The prevalent attitude among your average worker is one of settling, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you see everyone around you trudging through miserable jobs, commiserating with each other in the break room but doing nothing to change things, it’s easy to assume that’s “just the way things are.” So, you join the break room grumblers, taking a twisted sort of pride in the fact that you’re bucking up and “dealing” like everyone else and reconcile yourself to the fact that you’re doing the best you can with bad circumstances.
But you’re not your “average worker,” remember? You’re Brazen. And a Brazenite cannot hear someone say “We’re all miserable; that’s just life” without a little steam coming out their ears.
Just because everyone else is jumping off the bridge (or, more accurately, sitting dejectedly on the edge bemoaning how stuck they are) doesn’t mean you have to. The thing successful careerists realize early on is that happiness in your career is totally within your power—in spite of the cultural delusion that says otherwise.
Secret #3: It’s okay to want more—lots more
When you realize that empowering fact—that you can love your job, that you have the power to create the career you want—the bridge-sitters will suddenly rear up with more energy than you ever thought they had in them.
They will call you crazy. They will call you selfish. They will respond to your grand plans with a “Wouldn’t that be nice?” that implies you’re both wildly out of touch with reality and trying to get away with something that’s completely unfair to the rest of us.
Don’t listen to them. There is nothing wrong with wanting to (gasp!) be happy in life. You are not acting high and mighty or shirking your fair share. If anything, you owe it to the naysayers to show them that more is possible. It’s up to them whether they decide to act on that or not.
Secret #4: Skill is overrated
Plenty of people have skill. If you’ve been in the job market for any period of time, you know it’s crammed with people who have skills and credentials up the wazoo.
But none of that really matters. Because hustle and persistence will win over plain skill every time.
That’s not to say that skills don’t matter. Try hustling your little tail off in a sales position when you have no salesmanship whatsoever, and you won’t go very far. But, when it comes down to you and the competition, decent skill and a whole lotta hustle will go farther than lots of skill and no effort, every time.
Take it from Will Smith, who transformed himself from ’90s hip hop jokester to one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. He said:
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things; you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.”
Listen to The Fresh Prince. He knows what he’s talking about.
Secret #5: It can’t hurt to ask
You want a raise, a chance to work from home twice a week, a new freelance client? It may seem silly and super-obvious, but do you know what will set you apart from everyone else who wants the exact same thing? Asking for it.
Will you get what you ask for every time? Of course not. But you never know unless you try—and the truth is, most of the people around you are afraid of trying.
So you pitch that new client and they say they’re not interested—then you move on to the next one. Your boss says there’s no room in the budget for raises—then you revisit it in a year or so (or negotiate for other perks instead).
What’s important is that you’re willing to put yourself out there and go after what you want. Your success rate will vary, but it will be a heck of a lot better than the success rate of your cube mates who are still sitting around patiently waiting for their ships to come in. In the meantime, you’re showing people you’re an ambitious go-getter who’s willing to do what it takes to make things happen. You’d be surprised how many opportunities can come to you just by setting yourself apart as that kind of person.
Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.
Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!