At the peak … ahead of the game … king of the hill! That’s what you want to be. You want to have a career at the top of the world and stay there. Here’s your game plan.
Talent, hard work, consistency, ability and determination are all winning qualities, but guess what? They are just the price of admission. They are not how you make it to the top.
Being The Best
Whether you are a producer, planner, manager or executive, it is really hard to get to the top in your industry. Staying there is even more challenging. It’s more about who you are than what you can do. This isn’t going to be one of those career-counseling articles about finding yourself. We are talking about being yourself.
“You can’t just do a good job. You have to make such a powerful impression that they remember you and want to see you again.”
A Wise Man
When we talked about “The Six Smooth Moves That Make You Look Smart,” we discovered that successful, “smart” people do four things very well.
They provide consistent value. They know what they’re doing.
They do it well. They make themselves useful and invaluable.
They deliver results and not execution. They know that quality is what matters.
They are distinctive. They are known for the quality of their thinking.
Put all those things together and they create a powerful impression that people remember. It’s who you are and not just what you do.
Six Ways To Get to The Top and Stay There
Here are the things the people at the top know that you need to know. It starts with the most important thing of all.
#1. Don’t play the game too long.
As Bob Seger says, the trick is never play the game too long. Let’s say you produce exceptional events or create hyper-effective marketing. Get out while you are ahead. I don’t mean leave the business, but capitalize on what you’ve done, your contacts and reputation, and then use them as soon as you can as a springboard to the next chapter of your career. Personally, I don’t plan on being the oldest living creative director and content expert.
#2. Decide who you are and who you are going to be.
Remember the goal is to make such a powerful impression that people remember you and want to see you again. So be known for something. Imagine your life is a movie. That means you have to have an identifiable character. Who are you going to be? Decide how you’d like to be viewed by your colleagues and then stick to it.
#3. Focus on what you do best – and then change it.
The more specialized your talent or focus, the quicker it becomes obsolete. So be the best at what you do, for now. Then see where things are going and be there when everyone else arrives. Anticipate your company’s or client’s needs over the next year and be willing to get a little uncomfortable and learn something new. Be the one who finds and offers new value.
4. Be the guy who knows a guy.
Make contacts. I don’t mean collecting people on LinkedIn or Facebook. Take time to meet and know people and have real relationships. That way you know whom to ask or where to refer clients who are seeking a service you don’t offer. I tell clients, “If I can’t do what you need, I’ll help you find someone who can.” That goes a long way.
5. Be willing to lead.
You can’t be at the front of the pack by following. But remember, there’s a difference between being in charge and leading. You can be a planner, coordinator, do graphics, PowerPoint… anything … and still be a leader. Lead through your attitude, character and personality.
6. Accept the reality that not everyone has to like you.
My friend Mark Miller explains this very well on his blog –“Great Leaders Serve.” “Don’t be surprised if there are always some people who are unhappy with you. And if no one’s unhappy with you as a leader, perhaps you should be unhappy with yourself.”
Don’t spend too much time worrying about being loved for every effort you make. Everyone should share a common responsibility for generating the best possible results. You are working together. Clients will respect you and value what you provide. As long as you are not an impossible, temperamental jerk, that should be enough. Their satisfaction with you comes from your value. Actually, the people who may not love you are ones who see you stretching and can’t keep up.
Live Up to Your Potential
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the business two months or 20 years – you have never been better prepared and experienced than you are today. That means you are at the peak of your potential.
One of my favorite “Peanuts” cartoons shows Charlie Brown standing on the pitcher’s mound while the team is waiting on him to throw a strikeout and win the game. Charlie Brown looks straight at you and says, “The greatest burden in life is to have a great potential.”
• Live up to your potential by knowing how and when to deliver top performance. There should be a strategy for everything. Plan, determine how and when to deliver, and then manage yourself to get it done.
• If you have a choice between being easy to work with or easy to love … be easy to work with.
• Never lose sight of the end results. Focus on how success will be measured and the people who can make it happen. And be willing to let go and change so your contributions are always growing.
To have a career at the top of the world and stay there, keep asking yourself this question, “Who is the best producer, planner, marketer or executive you know?”
Make sure the answer is, “You.”
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