Roy Osing is former executive vice-president of Telus, educator, adviser and author of Be Different or Be Dead.
What’s preventing you from reaching your career goals?
Why are some successful and others are not?
My conclusions are not based on science, but rather on observing over many years that individuals who are blocked by the following barriers tend to underachieve while those who avoid them perform better and realize greater success.
Not enough contacts
Some people simply don’t have enough contacts. Their network is too small to effectively exploit the potential opportunities that are out there.
To avoid this barrier, develop a game plan to expand your personal network. Remember to target quality contacts rather than trying to acquire arbitrary social media connections.
You will get a higher return (measured by the potential to supply you with job opportunities) from 100 quality personal LinkedIn connections, for example, than 1,000 Twitter followers or Facebook friends.
Too much reliance on education
Of course education is vital to success, but don’t count on it to make you successful.
I look at academic credentials as the ante to play the career game. You need the piece of paper to play the game but it won’t guarantee you’ll win it.
Too many young professionals enter the work world expecting to be treated favourably because they have toiled for 8 years to graduate.
But that’s not the way it works. Success depends on what you do with what you know and how you leverage your knowledge into amazing results for who you work for.
So take your piece of paper, suck everything out of it you can, and do stuff with it.
The more clever you are at getting stuff done, the more successful you’ll be.
The other barrier associated with education is the tendency for everyone to approach problem solving the same way. They were taught a specific way to do things at school and they relentlessly comply with the academic rules.
Compliance leaves you like everyone else. Approaching things differently will make you stand out and be more successful.
There is too much emphasis on copying others under the guise of innovation.
When faced with a “How should we do this?” challenge, the first response by most professionals is to find a best practice owned by someone else.
Successful people don’t automatically turn to a solution that someone else has thought of and used. They search for a unique approach that stands out from the crowd of best practices to become the best practice. The successful aspire to be the benchmark for others to copy.
The wrong kind of mentor
Someone who is intellectually brilliant but has never done much to successfully implement a worthy solution in the real world unfortunately attracts mentees.
This is a huge barrier to success because it assumes high performance comes from the intellect and it doesn’t.
It comes from the passion and “fire in the belly” of individuals who are driven to achieve.
Find a mentor who has a rich history of accomplishments; someone who has demonstrated they are unafraid of getting dirty to deliver.
Not staying on the learning path
Some people fall victim to believing that there are limits to what you have to learn to achieve success; that once you have amassed a certain amount of knowledge you can stop the learning process.
It’s almost like they believe the momentum created by what they’ve learned up to now will successfully carry them into the future.
Wrong! Success is achieved not by a “one hit wonder” but by a continuous stream of awesome accomplishments over the long term. It’s a function of performing consistently at a high level.
And the only way long term a high level of consistency can be attained is by streaming new knowledge into your head constantly.
How much of your week is spent learning something new? If it’s not at least 10 per cent you’re probably falling behind.
Reliance on what worked yesterday
What got you here will surely get you to where you need to go, right?
The truth is, if your new challenge had all the properties of the past challenges you successfully defeated, then maybe you could get by with sticking to the practices that worked for you then.
But that’s not the real world.
Things change and there’s no such thing as a challenge that “looks” the same as yesterday. The world changes. New competitors enter. Technology disruption happens. Customer demands change.
So if you really think sticking to your tried and true strategy will keep working, good luck with that.
It won’t. Successful people always ask themselves what they have to do differently each new experience.
These are six barriers to success that everyone encounters, but all can be overcome with just a little bit of a different attitude.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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