Friday, November 2, 2018

The Formula for a Career Hot Streak

Witnessing an athlete's hot streak is very exciting.  Are hot streaks exclusive to athletes?  Nope.  A group of researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management recently published their findings on hot streaks, based on their study of over 30,000 professionals including artists, film directors and scientists.  The main findings were that hot streaks last four to five years and some people have more than one hot streak.  Hot streaks can occur at any point in a career. 

How can I get on a hot streak?  As the famous golfer Arnold Palmer is often quoted as saying, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”  In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that for  creative professionals “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness."  Both of these quotes relate success with practice.  If practice really does make perfect, you need to get practicing.  

How can I practice in the business world?  Well, first of all, you have to show up.  And when you do show up, you have to put in the hours, sign up for new assignments, and stretch yourself a bit.  Put your hand up when a difficult yet interesting project comes up.  Show up for a meeting prepared and ready to present your opinions and information.  And if a great opportunity comes along, whether you think you are completely ready for it or not, put yourself in line for it.  

Put in the Time:  I do believe that to get ahead you have to put in the work.  The harder I work, the luckier I've always gotten.  Putting in the time, you are building your career "muscle memory" to be agile when it is needed.  By putting in the time, you will have the knowledge and ability you will need when the time comes to use it. 

Not Simply Doing the Work:  While hard work can result in job security, you also need to work smarter not just harder.  Being strategic where you invest your time and effort is as important or perhaps more important than how hard you work.  Don't try to be the best at completing the same work the same way every time.  Figure out new things that need to be done, solve problems your company is facing and create efficiencies wherever you can.  

Find a Mentor:  Identify people you interact with at work and in your profession that you admire and respect.  Asking to be that person's protege may seem awkward, but it never hurts to ask.  Put yourself out there and do it.  This includes showing up at work, doing the work, and taking the time to build relationships with potential mentors.  Great mentors will have excellent advice on how to find greater career success.

Keep Learning:  To be successful and promote yourself, you have to keep learning.  Get up in the morning and make sure you are up on the current events.  Read industry publications to know what’s going on in your industry and gain insight to find solutions and make strategic decisions.  Interact with successful people and learn from them.  Often, industry leaders are profiled online or in local publications.  Read their interviews and see what you can glean for use in your own career.  If something really strikes you from something you see, reach out to that leader.  They may just invite you in for a meeting. 

Say Yes:  If you are given an opportunity to attend a new seminar, take a class, or meet an influential person, say yes.  Raise your hand high and volunteer.  You may just find yourself in the right place at the right time to further your career. 

Ignite Your Own Hot Streak:  While it will take hard work and sticking your neck out from time to time, career advancement is personally and financially rewarding.  Doing the work and being strategic can lead you to your own hot streak.  I'm hoping it will be the first of many.  

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