10 factors of corporate career success

Mostly I write about tech startups, investing, and real estate. I was asked recently though what I thought were the top success factors for corporate careers. I certainly think I am under-qualified as I am not an expert at climbing the corporate ladder by any means. I am much more comfortable in a strategic role where I can look at investments and make decisions about what is important and where time should be spent. Usually this puts me at odds with the corporate politics that play out in the corporate environment. As Ben Horowitz points out, I am in the can do attitude mindset vs. the can’t do mindset of corporate hierarchy.

Nonetheless… here are the things that I think are the top ten career success factors for corporate jobs….

1. Results MatterĀ – It really doesn’t matter where you are in the organization you need to be able to get shit done. Your number one priority should always be deliver great work!

2. Relationships & Networking – Often overlooked for corporate jobs, relationships & networking is one of the key tools required to get great stuff done. It is also the key tool to use when finding new opportunities to climb the ladder and opportunities to work on unrelated projects that could take advantage of your expertise.

3. Team Leadership – regardless of where you exist in the organization, you need to demonstrate an ability to be a leader of people. If you are thinking, hey I write code all day, what does team leadership have to do with me, think more about how you can demonstrate thought leadership, vision, and effectiveness. These are things that people on teams need and look for in their leader.

4. Know Corporate Language – All corporations have their own culture and language – you need to be a master of yours.

5. Enable Change – Meaning you need to work well in change. When you get re-org’d… again – roll with the changes and look for opportunities to make the change easier for everyone involved.

6. Establish Your Own Brand – People need to know and recognize your brand.

7. Optimism – There are a lot of negative people in the world. It is much easier to be complacent in an organization and commiserate with your compatriots about your evil overloards. This doesn’t help you with your career though. The truth is you are working there for a reason and while some things suck now and again – you need to show people why you choose to come to work everyday.

8. Attracting & Building Talent – Yes – no matter where you are in the organization – if you attract a group of great people to the company, you will get noticed.

9. Focus on the Now & Stretch Projects – The now projects are the ones that are the most important right now. The stretch projects are the ones that are a bit above your “assumed” capability. There are all sorts in between and these you should choose to play a smaller role in. Doing great work on the most important things now and the biggest things you can work on long term is a key measure when it comes time for your managers to evaluate how valuable you are to the organization.

10… Do your Reading – You need to know what the trends are, what is happening with your product in the market, what that market looks like, who in your company is making things happen, the list really goes on. You need to regularly read up on where things are going for your company.

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