1. Your first job
Your first job is important, it sets the tone for your entire career.
Choose wisely, and aim for the best. If you are trying to break into competitive niche areas, just keep trying until you get there.
In the beginning, it is tempting to think short-term and make decisions to get paid more or get promoted quickly. If you ask the people who have done very well in their careers, they all emphasize that it is more important to adopt a long-term view of your career. Do the things that benefit you in the long-term. Don't sacrifice the forest for a tree.
In practical terms, you may want to pick a company where you learn the most, where you are being challenged and have good mentors, even if it means you are not being paid the highest bonuses or have the fanciest title. Focus on developing your skills. In the long-term, having the right foundational skill-sets will truly bring you far.
You are only young once. You have the time and energy to try your best, in any competitive field. You can hustle, and this really counts in the first stage of your career. People are also very understanding when you are young and new, and are more willing to give you room to make mistakes. This stage is also the time to find good mentors, and prove yourself to them. Don't think about how they can benefit you, think about how you can benefit them. Providing value is the best way to network.
Congratulations! You have now reached the second stage of your career where you are in a leadership role. At this stage, you have more responsibility and manage others.
At this stage, being good at what you do is not enough. What's important is the ability to manage others. Your success will be measured by the success of your team.
How to do this? Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and form your team accordingly. Hire people that complement each other and yourself. Set the tone of your team by leading with example. Practice empathy with your team members. Put yourself in their shoes and think from their perspective. By understanding their needs, you will then know how to motivate them - to do more and achieve more.
Outsource relentlessly and trust others to perform tasks. It is up to you to lead, not micro-manage.
Nowadays, nobody's career path is linear. Instead of a ladder, your career is more like a jungle gym. You can go upwards, sidewards, diagonally, even downards, in order to reach the top. Mid-level executives should be open to lateral moves and willing to reconsider their timeline. Setting strict deadlines like “I need to be CEO by the time I’m 50” will set you back instead of propelling you forward.
At the C-Suite level, you are being paid for your leadership and strategy. Not only do you have to be able to go big, you also have to go deep.
C-suite executives are essentially problem-solvers. You must be able to solve problems on the macro and micro. This is where your 20 years of hard work come into play, by being both good at your job as an individual, and being good at your job as a manager.
Crucially, you also need to be a risk manager. Be vigilant about warning signs and act decisively. Small cracks beneath the surface, if one too many times ignored, can lead to a collapse of an organization.
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