The most successful people in your industry and profession may not be better than you. They also may not be more intelligent, talented, or hardworking than you.
However, I bet they are great at something most of us usually are not:
Of course, self-promotion isn’t enough. You do need a baseline of competence in your job.
However, I think we’ve all noticed that management will promote someone who is good enough at their job — and great at getting noticed — more often than someone who might be even better at their job, but no one is aware of them or what they do.
How did things turn out for you last year with your performance review?
Did your boss notice and appreciate your hard work?
Did they promote you?
Did you receive a significant raise?
Are you happy with the recognition you’ve received?
Or did you get passed over for a promotion this cycle? Are you frustrated with working hard and doing all the right things but don’t seem to get ahead at work?
Well, that’s why I write this newsletter and share my career advice. If you work hard and are good at what you do, you deserve to be treated well at work. That should be recognized and reflected in your compensation. I want you to be successful and happy, so I will share some advice to help you get ahead this year.
Here are five things successful people tend to do better than most. Note that 3-5 tap into the self-promotion skill.
They focus passionately on being great at something.
They help others and generate a lot of goodwill, which encourages reciprocity.
They network intelligently and consistently.
They’re good at capturing attention and converting it into opportunity.
They understand that selling is all about building relationships and solving people’s problems.
Let’s dive into each one of these in a little more detail.
If you’re a jack-of-all-trades, becoming an expert at anything is challenging. Yes, our jobs require a wide range of knowledge, skills, and tasks, but there should always be a primary focus.
The folks who rise to the top know how to focus their time and energy on what matters the most for their job. They do everything they can to improve at that one thing (e.g., sales, writing clean code, elegant design, strategic thinking, relationship building, persuasion, writing, playing guitar, statistical analysis, research, etc.).
What is the one thing that represents excellence in your profession?
Note: this will change as you climb the career ladder. What got you to your current level will not take you to the next level.
For example, I started my tech career as a designer. Doing great design work efficiently and effectively got me promoted to more senior levels as an individual contributor.
However, as I moved into design management, my design skills were no longer what made me stand out. Effective leadership was much more important than my ability to design interfaces.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can drop the ball on the many requirements of your job beyond the “one thing.” But don’t ever prioritize those over your most important focus area. I’ve seen people do that (e.g., an engineering manager writing great code but doing a poor job of managing the team), and then they wonder why they’re no longer getting promoted.
The most successful people help other people succeed. It creates a virtuous cycle.
Rising to the top of your career ladder by climbing over the bodies of your fallen colleagues isn’t a smart strategy. I think we all know some people who have done that. But, eventually, those chickens come home to roost, and these people fail.
Industries are small, and people talk. The selfish folks soon find that no one wants to hire or work with them.
Be generous with your time and advice. Obviously, don’t overdo this to the point where your work or personal life suffers. But help when and where you can.
For example, I spent about ten years helping people with their career issues and connecting them with potential employers for free. Friends, old colleagues, and connections in my network would reach out, and we’d meet over coffee or lunch to discuss their career goals.
Fast forward ten years, and I started a career coaching business to help even more people and make it my primary focus. Many of my first clients were the same people I’d helped in the past. Many of those people referred more potential clients to me.
People like to help people! And the most successful people make it part of their lives.
Intelligent networking creates opportunities. You shouldn’t only do it when you need a new job. Thanks to my network:
I landed every single one of my tech jobs.
I’ve been invited to speak at events (some were paid engagements).
I’ve been invited to participate in panels and speak on podcasts.
People reached out to hire me for consulting engagements.
I found talented people to hire for my teams.
Founders and CEOs asked me to sit on their boards.
People hired me to be their career or business coach.
I’ve made some amazing and ambitious friends who help me grow my business.
Your network is one of your most valuable resources if you build it wisely, protect it, and nurture it. Nurturing your network means keeping it fresh with consistent contact.
Send people interesting articles.
Pull folks into the right conversations.
Support each other on social media (e.g., like, comment, share).
Send job opportunities to your acquaintances.
Refer business to your solopreneur friends.
Reach out to catch up over Zoom, coffee, or lunch.
Check-in to see what folks have been up to.
The most successful people treat their network well. They balance giving and taking. They introduce good people to good people. They build communities and engage with other communities.
Marketing did not come naturally to me, and I still struggle with it as an introvert. Most modern marketing means spending time on social media, creating videos, and writing content.
Lots and lots of content.
However, writing is the one thing I do enjoy (hence this newsletter). And it has helped me grow my business and find new clients.
The most successful people are great at marketing. They know how to capture attention and convert it into a useful opportunity. They pay attention to psychology and learn what people like. What gets clicks. What turns attention into conversion.
People in the broader industry should know who you are, what you do, and how amazing you are — beyond the walls of your employer. I always talk about how important that is. If you want to become an opportunity magnet for the best things in life, people need to be aware of your existence!
But marketing also applies inside the corporate walls. People inside your company need to know who you are, too. I know it’s hard to talk about yourself and promote yourself. It feels icky for many of us. So, don’t! Instead, talk about the work, the team, and the mission of what you’re doing.
When you promote the great work you and your colleagues are doing, the spotlight also shines on you. Smart leadership will recognize that you’re behind the work, and you’ll get a chance to show people how you think.
Promotions happen when you’re great at what you do, and the right leaders know about you. Don’t be shy!
“Oh, but I don’t work in Sales.”
Yeah, I used to think that, too. I was a designer and wanted to be left alone to do my job. I didn’t need to learn anything about sales, right?
Besides, the idea of “selling” made me feel dirty. When I was younger, I briefly held telemarketing jobs and did door-to-door sales.
I hated it.
So, for most of my early career, I deliberately avoided anything that felt like sales or marketing. What I learned later — and wished I had fully understood earlier — is that many things in life require being good at sales.
Interviewing for a new job.
Negotiating your job offer.
Asking for a raise.
Asking for a promotion.
Selling your cool idea to management.
Persuading coworkers that you’re right about something.
Convincing others about a mutually beneficial opportunity.
Launching a new business and finding your ideal customers.
The most successful people in life are pretty damn good at sales. They know what they want, they know that persuading other people is a necessary part of life and getting what they want, and they know how to do it well so everyone feels good about it.
Sales doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
What are you going to do?
If any of this sounds like something you need to work on, the question is:
What are you going to do about it?
What will you change this year to get better at these five things so you can be more successful in your career and life? It’s time to set a goal and make a plan to make it happen.
On that note, my goals workshop Achieve Success with the Invincible Goals System is coming up in less than 2 weeks! The first 25 people who use this coupon code get 25% off: N468OA
Hope to see you there!
I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your work and life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and Great Dane.