As a researcher of people who excel in their work, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a lot of successful people talk about their careers. Although everyone is different, I’ve honed in on the three best pieces of career advice I’ve heard from successful people:
- Think of your career as a scavenger hunt.
We love to think of our careers as ladders, when really, they are scavenger hunts. When it comes to work, there is no preset route. The most successful people are always searching for new opportunities to use their strengths. They’re able to pivot paths, and if it’s not right, they scavenge back. Don’t worry about moving a little off course; in fact, a lot of successful peoples’ routes are scattered because their scavenger hunt has led them to a few different places, and they’ve course-corrected until they’ve found the best opportunities to fit their strengths.
- The best careers are incremental.
The most successful people are not making huge career leaps, but rather minor moves and small adjustments. Instead of looking far ahead and yearning to be in a completely different field or job title, they take baby steps to make incremental changes, effecting small adjustments to their current job until they’ve shaped it into a career that is uniquely perfect for them.
- Understand which parts of you are inherent and which parts you can change.
There are certain things you will take to every job: what you love about your work, what activities draw you in and make you feel great, and what activities lead to aspiration. And when you’re scavenging, you’ll find that each job is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, identify other things you love, and lean into them. Never take a job based on the role above it — you’ll burn out in the current position and never get to the role you think you’d actually love.
It’s also important to understand what skills you can acquire. You can be trained with new skills in order to fulfill a specific role, but no amount of training will allow you to become a different person. Be clear on what parts of your personality you take with you from job to job, and what skills you can legitimately learn.