The Secret to Career Success

It has been one of those days. You know the ones, when everything you see points to the same thing, as if life were running along according to a script with an overtly obvious theme.

I felt that way today as I tripped over three separate powerful pieces of information. Together, they pointed to the same general conclusion:

We all need a career plan.

While this is hardly a news flash, that message was in front of me once again – and I couldn’t ignore it.

The first piece of information has been sitting in my office for years, amid the clutter of my children’s art work. Along with these priceless pieces of art, I collect great quotes. My absolute favourite (and one that clients always seem to comment on) is from Patrick Lencioni, a respected author on leadership. His message is:

“The biggest mistake you can make is to believe that you work for someone else.”

Some people may think the statement is flawed – most of us are not self-employed and, therefore, do work for someone else. However, what he is really saying (and what we always advocate) is that you are a service provider and your employer is your customer. By thinking this way, you are less likely to fall into the trap that someone else is responsible for your career success. 

Right below that quote was a copy of a newspaper article that, at the time, seemed unrelated.  But when I reread it, there was the message again, albeit in a different context. The article discussed how people who advance in their careers are usually the ones addressing their employer’s (customer’s) explicit needs. Most of us will recognize these needs as being:

  1. Generating revenue
  2. Decreasing costs
  3. Making your customer’s (employer’s) life easier

The third piece of information was a report I recently read which states that in light of the economic upheaval, many people want to stay with their employers for a lifetime (unlike the more recent notion of being free agents). While I am sure that the timeline may be called into question, it does seems that the “three years and out” idea may have faded to some extent at least for the time being.

So, if you are one of those people who would like to stay with your current employer for the remainder of your working days, you need a career plan. Here is my advice:

  1. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are an employee.  Take responsibility for “You the Product” by acting like the CEO of your own business.
  2. Any good business owner will have a business plan – develop your own.
  3. In writing your plan, focus on how you contribute to organizations’ profits, mainly by increasing revenue or decreasing costs.
  4. Take stock of how you have met these needs previously and integrate this information into stories to share with others.
  5. Determine how you contribute to your organization’s sustainable competitive advantage because that is likely your own job security.
  6. Learn the art of self-promotion because no one else is going to do it for you (your local CPI partner is well equipped to help you with this).

What advice do you have for building a career plan?

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  1. Melinda Brown's avatar
    Melinda Brown
    | Permalink
    What a fantastic way of looking at this! No matter who your 'employer' is, in the end, you really are (and should be!) working for YOU! Thanks for sharing this, Terry.

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