7 Tips On Building Your Career.

careerI started my career in business in the mid-70s. The business world was different then (no sh-t Sherlock, you rightfully mutter). No personal computers or internet. No Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter obviously. Cell phones. Huh? In the 70s when you graduated, you tried to snag a job in a career that was interesting to you–a good one hopefully. If you were lucky enough to get a good job, then you put your head down and worked hard and learned. At least that’s what I thought the deal was. I was not a child of priviledge, so there was no safety net for me, but I honestly felt one was never necessary. Work hard, and hopefully over time you’d get recognition and get raises and promotions. If you worked for a good company, maybe even one with a training program (where have they gone?), then perhaps you stayed for a good period of time at that company, maybe even decades.

I worked in the advertising agency business for many years from the mid-70s through the 90s. It was the industry where “job hopping” was common to advance one’s career. Nonetheless, I worked for 12 years at BBDO/New York which, while it had its share of “stuff”, was a damn fine ad agency to work for. 12 years was not shabby, and I built my career at BBDO, rising through the ranks until at age 36 I had the opportunity to become President of Earle Palmer Brown’s Philadelphia office in 1989. Still not 100% sure coming to Philadelphia was the right decision (see 25 years and still an interloper), but made lots of sense back then.

Today a 12-year stint at an employer is rare. Not just because many employees have less loyalty (and employers do as well), but also because the changing pace of business can make a thriving company into a not so thriving one far more quickly. The pace of change is far more rapid and 12 years is eons.

So in today’s world, here are the 7 things you should do to best manage your career:

1. Put your head down and do a good job for your current employer

Sounds like “old time” advice. It is. This one doesn’t change. Do a great job for your current employer and represent them well. Show loyalty, integrity and a positive attitude, particularly in the face of adversity. Be known as a “go-to” person.

2. Network aggressively from day one

This is not in conflict with #1. Networking is not “glad handing” but merely relationship building. Build your industry network. Use tools like LinkedIn from day one to build your “circle of influence”.

3. Build your knowledge base

Never get stuck without learning new things. Knowledge and skill is power. Go beyond your current job function and learn everything you can.

4. Be loyal

Longevity has value. Do not view an external opportunity through rose colored glasses without thinking through downsides.

5. Don’t be foolish if your company is tanking.

If your current employer is in decline and always “downsizing”, it’s time to move on, lest you get downsized at an inopportune moment. Don’t be the last one on a sinking ship. Did the violinists on the Titanic get a “stay bonus”?

6. Make decisions for the long-term

You found an interesting opportunity at another company that pays more. Great. Is it a good company? Is there a long-term future? Is it really better than your current position? Is the money really that much better? Maybe your current employer will wake up and pay you more (ps: this does happen, but you can go to this well once only)

7. Give

This may be the most important one. Give selflessly to others. Help others. Do not operate from a quid pro quo paradigm either. But you’ll find if you genuinely give to others, it’ll come back to you. Be patient, I promise you it will.

Building a great career starts with talent, hard work and integrity—the building blocks that matter. A little luck helps too, but those who are “lucky” were smart enough to put themselves in a position to be so.

Get back to work.

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