We all know people who are lucky. The good things in life just fall into their laps, whether it’s love, a great career, or winning the lottery. It might be easier to throw up your hands and think that it’s karma, but in your more reflective moments you’ve probably realized that there’s a bit more to it than that. You do, after all, have to meet the right person to fall in love, and you at least have to buy a ticket to win the lottery. As far as success at a career, you have to be ready for it.
The Roman philosopher Seneca said that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and he’s been quoted and paraphrased many times over the centuries because there’s more than a bit of truth in the statement. If you haven’t done the prep, you can’t take advantage of the opportunity. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
In terms of finding a job in the business world and making the most of career opportunities along the way, you’ve got to be ready for every door that opens. That means:
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Record Your Successes
Keep track of everything you’ve achieved in your current job, either in terms of project results, sales figures, or whatever other other metric applies. This will give you a reliable record of the value you’ve brought to your employer, whether you’re ultimately going to present it to him or her or to the hiring manager at another company. Bottom line results are what people want to see when they’re looking to promote or to hire.
Toot Your Own Horn
In a competitive business environment, you’ve got to make sure the higher-ups know what you can do. The more modest among us tend to think that it’s bragging to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. But if you don’t do it, who will?
It’s not bragging if you simply state something with confidence and don’t look as if you expect applause. Phrase it naturally, like “Do you want to know how I came up with that idea?“ and you’re simply sharing information that makes you look good.
Be a Good Team Member
You might believe that you do better work by yourself, and you might be right. But teams are how a lot of things are done these days, and it doesn’t serve you to be odd man or woman out. Brush up on how to listen, collaborate, share expertise, ask for help, and develop consensus. If you’re not adept at it, watch how others do it. Follow through on your own responsibilities to the team, and if you can volunteer to do more without encroaching on anyone else’s territory, do it.
Seek out a Mentor
Relationships are as critical in the business world as they are in the rest of your life. At all stages of your career it’s beyond helpful to have one or more great people in your corner whom you admire and who you can ask questions of and learn from. If one of those people is your boss, you’re already ahead of the game.
Let him or her know that you’d appreciate advice on how to move up in the company, that you’ve prepared yourself for more responsibility and have given thought to how you can help the organization. (Be ready to give examples.) If your attitude and work already shine, it should encourage him or her to keep an eye on your progress and guide you along the way.
Keep yourself up on what’s happening in your organization at every level, as well as what current trends are in your specific area as well as the whole industry you work in. Subscribe to trade magazines, attend seminars, and be aware of outside and world events that can impact your field. Nothing you learn ever goes to waste.
For more insight into how to make your own luck, read what five columnists have to say on the subject of preparing yourself for career success.