(For even more tips on how to be successful and effectively communicate, download my free giveaway, 7 Secrets To Highly Effective Communications.)
Unlike any Presidential campaign in my recent memory, this year’s election season has generated a lot of uncertainty about our future here in the good ol’ USA.
Americans have long been known for our can-do optimism and work ethic, yet a recent Wall Street Journal columnist suggests that Optimism is a Casualty in Campaign 2016, saying, “Candidates in both parties stoke the worries of many voters that America’s best days may be in the past.“
Are you worried about the future and what impact the election will have on your life and career? Are you wondering if your industry will expand or contract? Will your company weather the storms? Will it need to restructure? How can you be nimble enough to navigate what may be ahead? And how can you lead yourself and your team amidst the uncertainty?
Whatever the outcome of the Presidential election is, you don’t have to spend your energy worrying or gathering anxiety. Jumping into the spin cycle of fear, uncertainty and doubt leaves you focused on the wrong things, consuming your valuable time and energy on factors outside of your control.
Instead, channel that energy into initiative and action on what you can influence.
Well before the November election and inauguration of our next President, there are steps you can take to dramatically increase your odds for success, both now and into the future. These steps on how to be successful will also make you happier and more fun to be around, to boot!
I’m a serial entrepreneur who has started and grown several enterprises. I’ve invested in and mentored countless entrepreneurs and leaders and serve on several boards overseeing over $10B in assets in a variety of industries. I’ve weathered the recessions 1987, 9/11 and the freefall in the markets of 2001, 2008 and the rollercoaster rides since.
Yet, in all of these crises, I’ve observed firsthand that there is always a critical need for talented people who possess astute self-knowledge, great communications skills and initiative. As simple as it sounds, people with this package are hard to find.
You can and should be one of them. Even if you already are, you can become even better.
The most important factor in your career is not who wins the Presidency. It’s not even who you know; and it’s certainly not the pedigree of your university.
The most important, influential factor in your career success is you.
You can take these seven steps that that will give you a career you enjoy, increase your happiness and ensure you have the impact and rewards you imagine, whatever the results of the election.
1. Cultivate optimism
It’s not hard. Study after study shows what Harvard Business review author writes:
“The most hopeful aspect coming out of optimism research is that our mindset is malleable — just like a muscle at the gym, we can work on it to strengthen it. Our mindset is not merely a result of genes and upbringing. By refocusing attention on the positive, meaningful parts of life and our personal strengths, we can scientifically retrain the brain to default to that way of thinking.”
The three quickest ways to build your optimism muscle are actually simple and can be done in under five minutes. These are:
- Cultivating new gratitude each day
- Thanking someone and
- Writing about a meaningful event in your life
These small daily habits add up to powerfully change your mindset and your day.
2. Know yourself and your strengths
People who know their strengths and weaknesses have greater confidence, empathy and attitudes. This is not something you do once. It’s an ongoing process, as you and your experiences and circumstances change throughout your life.
You can discover your top five strengths by taking the Strengthsfinder assessment online for $15 and about 20 minutes.
You will be surprised at what you find, as you discover new attributes that you didn’t realize were some of your key strengths. You’ll also gain a new vocabulary on how to articulate your value and clear suggestions on how to put your strengths into action.
3. Become a better communicator
Most of the problems at work originate from poor communications. Misunderstandings, missed deadlines and mistakes come from a lack of clarity and consistency in messages from both the top down and the bottom up.
Great communicators aren’t born.They have to work at it. Even if you are a good communicator now, you should continue to invest in becoming better.
Anyone can be an effective communicator. Highly effective communicators are rare and move ahead faster and generate better results. Communication is leadership. If you’re intentional about constantly improving, you will find that you and your team will achieve goals more effectively.
There are a number of resources from workshops to books that will help you grow. I’ve listed several in my free giveaway, 7 Secrets To Highly Effective Communications.
4. Commit to a daily habit of personal growth
Leadership and success are developed daily, not in a day.
Committing to personal development builds positively on what you have begun with self-discovery and takes your knowledge from the abstract to habits that build you up and give you (and others) joy.
You may believe that you have too many other pressing responsibilities to invest in your personal development: a team to manage, a product to deliver, etc.
In reality, you are never too busy to invest a bit of time in your personal development. Find something you can weave into your current schedule.
It can start with a morning routine that energizes you. Or, even something as simple as attending a leadership workshop, or listening to any one of many podcasts on leadership and personal growth. My favorites include leadership expert, Michael Hyatt, and best-selling author, Gretchen Rubin. Or commit to reading at least one book a month or a quarter. I recommend starting with anything by Daniel Pink who writes about motivation and business transformation. There are also a multitude of excellent leadership blogs.
Discover what resonates for you – there’s no one size that fits all.
The idea of personal development and leadership growth one day at a time is the genesis for my Pocket Mentor mobile app, which offers been there, done that leadership advice and step-by-step plans that are available on your iPhone 24/7, anytime, anywhere.
This step also helps you navigate the most important aspect of in your work, life, happiness and success – your mindset!
5. Take initiative to add more value!
As Sarah Kunst, Founder of Proday and Forbes Women Under 30 honoree, says, “The most important selection criteria for who is on your team isn’t family name or pedigree or what they’ve done before, it’s is this somebody who can add value.”
So, pay attention and ask for more responsibilities. Act more like an owner than employee – no matter what your position.
Ask questions, observe and empathize with your manager and teammates. This will help you analyze where there are opportunities for improvement or whether there is a project that is languishing because no one else has time or wants to do it (these exist in every organization!).
Volunteer your talents and skills often. There will be seasons in your career when you work longer and harder – it’s an investment that will propel you farther and faster and add new, exciting experiences into your life. Come in early and stay late for a while.
All of these things will help you get noticed for doing your job well.
6. Keep track of your value
You can’t expect others to keep track of all your achievements – this is something for you to cultivate and become good at!
Every week or so, take a few moments to make notes on a few accomplishments you have made that week, large or small. You can write them in your smartphone notes, or keep them in a notebook or file.
Jot down little victories, like responding to a customer request in record time, or helping a teammate solve a problem. By keeping track of and documenting your ongoing achievements, you will be prepared to articulate and quantify the value you bring — anytime, anywhere.
Some of your achievements (promotions, awards, recognition, new projects, etc.) should also be added to your LinkedIn profile periodically. Keep your profile current and review it regularly to ensure it’s impactful and allows you to put your best foot forward to others.
Also Consider creating your own website, where you highlight your value, vision and accomplishments in a creative way.
7. Explore the “Gig Economy”
Have you always wondered what it would be like to start your own business? One way to put your toe in the water is as a freelance professional.
You can get a taste for it now and earn while you learn. Find clients and customers through “work on the side” projects — you can often find gigs you can even do virtually!
There are several options to explore, depending on your skillsets and interests. Here are a few:
- Evisors where you can give advice to people who want to know about an industry or career path.
- TopTal – if you’re a software developer, TopTal aims to connect the top 3% of developers and designers with the companies that need them on an independent contractor basis.
- Freelancer connects professionals with prospective clients representing every technical, professional and creative field, providing small jobs, large jobs and anything in-between.
- UpWork offers freelance roles as diverse as developers to marketing, to accounting and more.
There will always be factors outside your control in your career and life. However, if you take action on even one of these seven suggestions, you will be better prepared for the future (after the 2016 election) — and you’ll be happier along the way!
Your turn: When thinking about how to be successful, how do you continually grow in your career, no matter what curveballs life may throw at you?