Career Advice from People Who Should Know

Personal Branding
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Success is having what you want and wanting what you have and having the people whom you love, love you. – Warren Buffett, American business magnate, investor and philanthropist

Forget the career ladder, climb the jungle gym

According to Fast Company, a person will average 10.7 jobs in his/her lifetime. You’ll need to be agile and open to taking upward leaps, lateral moves and even occasional downward steps to gain the breadth of experience necessary to have a fulfilling career.

“A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career,” writes Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. “I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” For one thing, her current boss, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, was only 7 years old when Sandberg graduated from college. She worked for Eric Schmidt at the U.S. Treasury just before he became CEO of a then relatively unknown company called Google. A job Google offered her sounded less prestigious than others she had applied for, but the potential for growth there drew her in. When she voiced her concern, Schmidt told her, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.” In other words, the potential for growth is all that matters whether it’s in the company as a whole, a division or team, or in a position with high demand for your skills.

Avoiding failure is not a strategy for success

As Oliver Burkeman wrote in “The Power of Negative Thinking,” his recent Wall Street Journal article, “Just thinking in sober detail about worst-case scenarios can help to sap the future of its anxiety-producing power.” We also can gain inspiration from Steve Jobs’ famous declaration: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way that I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” Ironically, we waste our time when we worry about not achieving our goals and in the end it’s the worrying and fear that limit us most from pursuing them. It may be time to start making ourselves more vulnerable and to risk failure in order to achieve our greatest potential.

• Winston Churchill failed sixth grade and was defeated every time he ran for public office. Then he became British prime minister at the age of 62.

• Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Edison went on to invent 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked.

• Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC “Colonel,” couldn’t sell his chicken. More that 1,000 restaurants rejected him. But then one took the chicken on, and today there are KFC restaurants bearing his image all over the world.

• Albert Einstein didn’t speak until age 4 and didn’t read until age 7. His teachers labeled him “slow” and “mentally handicapped.” But Einstein just had a different way of thinking. He won the Nobel Prize in physics.

• Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television-reporting job because they told her she wasn’t fit to be on screen. But Winfrey rebounded and became the undisputed queen of television talk shows. She’s also a billionaire.

• Twenty-seven publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’ first book. He’s now the most popular children’s book author ever.

Don’t over-plan your career

Patricia Sellers has spent the past 30 years at Fortune studying the careers of successful people. The most successful of those she interviewed for the magazine had no clue what they wanted to do when they were in high school or even in college.

Sellers says, “Always consider how you can contribute to the bigger whole – and don’t be afraid to stumble. I wrote a 1995 cover story called ‘So you fail, so what!’ Today, recovering from failure is a badge of honor that bosses want to see in people they hire.”

The career path of Bo Burlingham, editor-at –large for Inc. Magazine, path is an example. His unconventional career path led him to success and happiness. He had no career plan and his ascent to his current position was more or less, as he said, “an accident.” Bo made the switch from writer for a left-wing newspaper to writer for a business publication at Fidelity for more job security, training on business concepts, and opportunities for career advancement. There he was able to broaden his skills and acquire new knowledge of the business world that ultimately led to a better job as a writer for Inc. As soon as he arrived at Inc. he knew he had made the right decision: He realized that “the media caricatures of people in business were wrong.” Bo was energized working with journalists he called “visionaries and dreamers.”

Stay focused on these ideas:

• Seek real world experiences (over prestigious name firms) to learn new skills

• Adapt to new and difficult challenges

• Jump at chances to assume more responsibility

• Ditch preconceived notions of what you’re looking for so you don’t miss out on a potentially better opportunity when it comes your way

• Challenge yourself and your beliefs

• Develop your positive character traits

• Identify problems in society that bother you and try to be a part of the solution

• Pursue an industry that intrigues you and that’s growing in an area where you want to live

• Maintain your connections with family and friends

• Find time for small kindnesses and for laughter

While you’re building a career, remember not to miss out on life’s deepest pleasures.