Since I’m going to be speaking to college students tomorrow I have been pondering how one gets ahead today. Here are six ideas:
1. Host something. Planning and promoting an event pays off several ways. It tests your organizational abilities and helps develop a few key leadership skills like the power of influence and creative thinking. The additional bonus is the connection you’ll make with new people.
2. If you’ve done it it isn’t bragging unless you do it wrong. Talking about your legitimate accomplishments can turn into bragging when you do so loudly or too often, you exaggerate or embellish and/or you don’t share credit with others who deserve it. Sometimes you need to explain your accomplishments, but letting them speak for themselves can be even more effective.
3. Appreciate more to be appreciated more. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting you fake appreciation to get it from others. I am stating the obvious: we appreciate those who appreciate us. I’ve yet to meet anybody who overdoes sincere appreciation and gratitude. Don’t worry about becoming the first.
4. Remember that you’re on stage all the time. Unguarded moments can be costly. You never know who is watching. I once got a job interview because the president of the company watched me interact with a client at a business breakfast. He didn’t know me from a box of rocks but liked how I handled myself. That was an eye-opener for me. I’ve also embarrassed myself by losing my temper when I didn’t realize I was being observed (not that going ballistic is okay if you’re not being observed). Being on one’s best behavior isn’t just important for the perceptions you create–it will help you become a better person.
5. Increase your vocabulary. The late musician Larry Norman once said that a limitation of language was a limitation of thought. The more words you understand and can use appropriately, the smarter you’ll become. Just guard against being a word show off. The goal of effective communication is to create shared understanding, not to prove how many big words you know.
6. Read books others aren’t reading. Regular readers of mine knew I’d mention books. I am familiar with the popular fiction and non-fiction books of the day. The rub is that if you read what everybody else is reading you’ll be exposed to the same ideas. Look for novel ideas in unusual places and that includes books unfamiliar to the general public.
These ideas, should you choose to apply them, will help you regardless or your age or position. They are the kinds of actions I’ve consistently observed successful people using to get ahead.