Career success = results x relationships
While I would start many talks with the career journey, the next concept I walk through are the components of career success. Career sucess is made up of two things: results and relationships.
Career success formula
Maybe it’s because I graduated with a computer science degree, but it somehow turned into a mathematical formula. Put simply:
career success = results x relationships
Results are different depending on your life stage, however, they are focused on what you did and what you accomplished. In school, the primary focus for results are you grades, your GPA. It could also be your work experience. Be it part time work, or work-integrated learning. It could also be volunteer work inclusive of student club involvement. As well as what you’ve done on your own, which could be self learning or businesses on the side. Results are definitely important, however they are just part of the formula.
Results is often made better if you can become a practitioner. Knowing how to do something is great, but demonstrating that you can do it by already having done it is better, since knowing how to do something is different than having done it. I use the example of swimming. If know how to swim, have you read the book on swimming? studied the text book? Most people are confused when I ask the question since they didn’t read the book, and spent most of their time in the water to learn. So just like the best way to show you can learn to swim is by doing it, then the best way you can show that you are competent in whatever degree you are studying, then being a practitioner is important. That could be through work integrated learning, or volunteer work, or other. A good way to demonstrate results is to be a practitioner.
Relationships is often the underrated part of the equation. Especially when you’re in school, then the focus is on academics. You do make friends, and if you manage to maintain those relationships then doors often magically open 5, 10, 20 years into your career and beyond. Porter Gale has a book Your Network Is Your Net Worth: Unlock the Hidden Power of Connections for Wealth, Success, and Happiness in the Digital Age which I tend to agree with the title as my relationships have definitely lead to more opportunities and an expanded net worth. However, it was not always that way. I am naturally an introvert so I needed to work very hard at relationship building. But it does get easier.
Why are relationships more important? Relationships are a multiplier for your results. I use a variation of the analogy “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”. My variation is “if you do a great job and no one knows about it, did you really?”. Let’s say you do a great job at work, and no one knows that you did it, wouldn’t it be just the same as if you didn’t know it? Now if your manager knew, then that’s great. And if her manager knew, then even better. And if all levels of the chain to the CEO knows, then that is even better. Plus relationships have much more value like being an accelerator or multiplier of time, as well as access.
Results vs relationships?
I am often asked the question: should I spend more time on results or relationships? And my answer is normally “Yes”. That’s a silly response, but the answer is you need to spend time on both. And depending on your state of one, you might need to spend more time on the other. Let’s say that you want a particular job which needs a 4.0 GPA. Your GPA is below a 4.0, so you might assume that you could not get the job. The realization you need to understand is that great relationships could offset the gaps in the results. Adding value to the hiring manager and providing to them that you could do the work despite your GPA would potentially allow you to get the job.
The opposite is also true where if you don’t have great relationships, then your results need to be very impressive so that people are interested in seeking you out.
So now that you know the make up of career success, go out there and demonstrate results, and build relationships!
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