Ever feel like the corporate ladder is broken? That’s because you’re making the mistake of trying to climb it. As we discovered through our research, an increasingly uncertain business world requires all-new methods of thinking and strategies to navigate. Following are eight new rules needed for career success in increasingly unpredictable professional environments – and how to use them to vault yourself straight into the executive suite.
- Become essential – You’ve got to be crucial to your organization – not someone that’s easily replaced. For example: You might be the company’s go-to IT expert, a crucial member of its engineering team, or a highly sought-after internal thought leader. If others can do what you do, you’re already on the road to irrelevance. Instead, be a linchpin, or crucial piece in any system – one that’s fundamentally difficult and expensive to replace.
- Rethink your value – Never stop learning, improving, and investing in yourself – then consistently apply these talents in ways that go far beyond your job description. For example: If you’re an event planner, take design and marketing classes so you can create more user-friendly and engaging event marketing materials. If you’re a marketer, spend more time with your programmers so you can find new ways to leverage your creative ideas through technology. The more versatile you make yourself, the more adaptable, resourceful and uniquely value-adding you can be.
- Change and evolve – Get the capabilities, skills and insights today that will be in-demand tomorrow. Take steps to acquire the talents, contacts and resources you’ll need to succeed in the future, so you can be in a more advantageous position to greet it when it arrives. Know where you want to go in your career; have a plan for getting there, and voluntarily push yourself to learn, grow and take on more leadership and responsibility – even if this means taking small steps in different directions until bigger ones become more comfortable.
- Create your own opportunities – Go, see, try and do. Put yourself into situations that place you outside your comfort zone, like taking on unfamiliar tasks that require you to do new things with new people. Be open-minded, and soak up as much knowledge and learning as you can – then apply it vigorously. The more you do so, the more you’ll consistently put yourself in opportunity’s path and the greater your chances of finding it will be.
- Never stop learning – Constantly look for ways to expand your education and insights – the most resilient leaders are eternal students, and possess talent and training that’s applicable to a wide range of professional contexts. Think of it this way: The more resources you’ve got in your professional toolkit, and ways you can use them, the more future-proof you’ll be.
- Embrace difficult challenges – Seek out hard tasks that others avoid: It means you’ve got less competition, and the benefits of accomplishing these tasks will be more singular and valuable. Look to apply a variety of skills and insights while doing so too: The more you exercise different talents while others exercise the same ones over and over, the more versatile you’ll be. Applying focused effort towards accomplishing larger goals can help you achieve more. And the more you push your comfort zone, the more you’ll increase your courage and capabilities.
- Go above and beyond – What personal activities are you pursuing that can teach you marketable skills, or push you closer towards achieving your career goals? Going forward, your work, your reputation, and your contributions will be your resume. Use off-hours opportunities as a chance to grow and enhance them, and set yourselves apart while others shy away from opportunity.
- Take smart risks – The more you do the same things over time, the less value they hold in a rapidly-changing world. Faced with change, you’ve got to take risks that can help propel you further towards achieving your goals. But being risky doesn’t necessarily mean being reckless: Rather, smarter about where you place your bets. Pick a portfolio of promising growth activities – start a part-time business, launch a new product, volunteer to lead an innovative new venture, etc. – then pursue them, readjusting your strategies as you go based on the results achieved. Keep taking promising risks that put you in chance’s sights and put you in a position to succeed.