The business world is evolving at a rapid pace. Long gone are many of the career “rules” our parents adhered to, like the popular “Stay with the same company until you retire” directive.
But the thing is, many of these guidelines are antiquated. You don’t have to follow them in order to achieve great success—yet many of us still try to.
It’s time to set a new precedent. Here are 20 career rules that are more relevant to the times that will help you be more successful than you ever dreamed of (at least for the next few years, because standards are changing all the time!).
1. You Don’t Have To Go To College In Order To Be Successful
A post-secondary degree used to be the only way you could truly access the business world. But these days, many companies have dropped that requirement. Plus, if you feel the itch to start your own company instead of pursuing higher education, you can. Follow your excitement and desire. College is the right path for some, but not for others.
2. Job Hopping Is Perfectly Okay (And Can Actually Be A Really Great Thing)
Personally, I think people who job hop are superstars—because they know when they’re getting bored and are ready for a new challenge, they don’t fear change (at least not enough to stay stagnant), and they are proactive about moving on and choosing the right next step for them.
3. Self-awareness Is More Important Than Credentials
Traditionally, the more degrees after your name and certifications listed on your resume, the better. Formal education used to be thought of as the key to success, the only way to learn. But now, with information at everyone’s fingertips, it’s more important that you’re always learning and can talk about what you know, why it’s important, and the value you can bring to an organization. Turns out, informal education is just as beneficial (if not more). In other words, your knowledge and skills are what matters—how you get there doesn’t.
4. The Way Your Job Makes You Feel Is More Important Than Your Salary And The Perks
Yes, if you’re struggling financially, you may have to prioritize the amount of money you make and the benefits that come along with it.
But even then, you should try your hardest to find a position and company you enjoy (at least most of the time). Because, at the end of the day, no dollar amount can completely erase your misery. And if your work makes you feel unhappy, dejected, frustrated, or all of the above, your performance will suffer. It’ll be mediocre at best.
5. Only You Can Drive Your Performance—No One Else Can
Performance management has radically changed. The new model requires individuals to manage their own work behavior and achievements, rather than relying on their manager to do so. As a performance expert, I can confidently say this is a great thing! It requires you to be more self-aware, more present, more engaged. And, frankly, that’s the only way you can actually experience true great performance.
But, take note: Doing this means you have to get into the habit of being connected to yourself (this weekly performance tracker I developed can help). The more you know how to be who you are and how to use that as your performance North Star, the more successful you’ll be.
6. Your Manager Isn’t Your Career Coach
They are your ally—there to support you, help remove barriers, and provide feedback. They are not there to give you answers to your career planning or to solve any performance problems you may have. You alone are in charge of those two things.
7. Filter Feedback Through The Lens Of Who You Are
Sometimes, criticism is helpful. Other times, it’s not. You need to be able to see it for what it is: data. If it’s not a true reflection of who you are, discard it. If it is, embrace it, learn from it, and move forward. Often, feedback can help you see your own blind spots—and in those cases, you should welcome it—but don’t take it as gospel if it doesn’t resonate with who you are and where you want to go.
8. Create Opportunities—Don’t Wait To Receive Them
The world is entrepreneurial now more than ever. As you generate ideas, your circumstances will become more favorable and you will become more valuable and essential.
9. Ideas Come From Everyone, Not Just The Executive Team
About 20 years ago, ideas came from the top. Today, that’s simply not the case. (If it is at your company, you may want to consider a change.) Leadership has evolved. These days, good leaders encourage—and inspire—everyone on their team to come up with and suggest new ideas.
10. Your Organization Should Make You Feel Safe Being Exactly Who You Are
Psychological safety is a buzzword now, and for good reason. If a company wants to be comprehensively diverse and inclusive, this is a crucial component. If you can’t be who you are, your ability to perform is thwarted.
11. Increased Diversity Of Thought Is Always Better For Business
Be you, be creative, be willing to be different. That’s the true key to innovation. And make sure you promote and accept others doing the very same.
12. Getting Fired Can Be A Gift
It’s a huge opportunity for growth and learning. Why did it happen? If it was “a long time coming,” why did you not leave on your own terms? Dissect the experience and use it as intel. Being fired is not the end—it’s a new beginning, the chance to start over and build a career even better than you imagined.
13. Failures Are Essential For Great Success
For most successful people, the journey wasn’t seamless—far from it. They likely tackled and overcame multiple failures along the way. And the truth is, those bumps in the road, both big and small, played an integral role in their great achievements. When you fail, embrace it as an opportunity to learn and evolve. Don’t fear failure; that won’t serve you. It’ll prevent you from stretching your comfort zone and reaching your ultimate potential.
14. Careers Can Go In Any Direction—They Don’t Have To Be Linear
No longer do you have to choose one company and climb the never-ending ladder (though you can certainly still do that, if you prefer). Careers are as unique as the individuals who have them. Make the moves that feel right to you, even if it means you’re moving to the left, right, back, front, up, down, in a circle—whatever. You can get off the ladder and choose the jungle gym instead. It’s your life, your career.
15. To Be A Great Leader, You Must Be Self-Aware
The better you know yourself, why you are the way you are, and what blind spots you may have, the more powerful and inspiring of a leader you can be. Because with self-awareness comes vulnerability, confidence, and clarity, and those are the makings of great leadership.
16. You Don’t Have To Listen To Everything Your Mentor Says
Just because someone is successful and has your best interests at heart doesn’t mean that you should do everything they say. After all, what worked for them may not work for you. Resist taking action unless it’s something you feel excited about and motivated by. It must feel right to you. Again, this requires knowing yourself—and your aspirations—very well so that you can be discerning with the advice you receive.
17. If Success Keeps Eluding You, The Job Is The Problem, Not You
When things just don’t seem to be working out, don’t point the finger of blame at yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just not a good fit, whether it’s because of the office environment, the dynamics between you and your manager, the job responsibilities, or the mission of the organization. Don’t keep trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Find an opportunity that fits you better.
18. You Need To Block Off Time To Think
In a world where back-to-back Zoom meetings are the norm, you must be proactive with your calendar and book time to process, plan, and brainstorm. It sounds strange, but it’s true. And it’s worth it. I promise.
19. Connecting To Your Purpose Is Essential
You must do this in order to avoid burnout and find fulfillment. When you figure out how to tap into your intrinsic motivation, you’ll find that you have natural, endless energy for the work that you do (as long as you still make time to take care of yourself and get enough sleep). And you can’t do this without identifying your Purpose—operating without it is like running a marathon without any food—you’ll deplete your energy stores quickly and crash far before you reach the finish line.
20. Knowing Your Zone of Genius Is Essential For Productivity, Excitement, Fulfillment, And Energy For Your Work
Your Zone of Genius is the way you think best (your Genius) and the impact you want to make on the world (your Purpose). These two data points will change your career (and life) for the better. Take the Zone of Genius quiz to identify yours today!