The Three Vital Ingredients To Fast-Tracking Career Success

growth chart concept written on blackboard

growth chart concept written on blackboard

The most common question I am asked by the most ambitious, impatient emerging talent is this: “How do I fast-track building a successful career?” I tell them. And they really don’t like what I say.  Do you?

The answer to building career success is simple. Well, in my view anyway. Let’s see if you agree. I share this perspective from a knowledge bank of 30 years of ‘in the trenches’ experience, of hiring, mentoring, and coaching thousands, of building, buying, merging and closing businesses, and of farewelling many under-achievers.

Here’s my view. Every single ‘successful’ person I have seen who has climbed rapidly up the corporate ladder has had these three attributes in spades. You must have all three. Two is not enough. Have a read, and then score yourself out of 10 against how you’re tracking right now against each (10/10 being ‘brilliantly’… 1/10 ‘an unmitigated disaster’). Here they are:

1. Competency

First and foremost, work damned hard at improving the core skills that make up the DNA of your role. Get really, really good at what your role needs you to do. If you are in sales, work with passion and commitment to becoming a fricken awesome sales person. If you’re a coder, become world class at coding. Spend every minute you can working on deepening your competency. Being brilliant at what you do every day underpins success. Work on your competency!!

2. Likeability

People do business with people they like. Bosses gravitate towards employees they like. Colleagues endorse co-workers they get on with. I know this sounds trite and contrived. We have to get used to it. It’s human nature. It’s how the world works and how you get ahead. Work on your likeability. Be someone others want to spend time with- not something I have always excelled at! Be user-friendly. Be sociable. You’ll get invited to things others won’t be, and get to spend time with the key influencers in your business life. And it will accelerate your success. Guaranteed.

3. Work Harder Than The Rest

Yes, I know. Gasp. Horror. How can you say such a thing? Here’s the rub. If you want to get ahead, work say two hours longer than the rest, every day. Get up earlier, go to bed later. Work relentlessly on your efficiency and effectiveness. If you are delivering an extra two hours a day, then you’re a day a week ahead of your colleagues and competitors. That makes a massive difference. If you want to leapfrog normal career timelines, then roll up those sleeves and put in the hard yards. There is no way around this one. In my career I was never the smartest or most talented. I do reckon though that I consistently… week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out, decade in, decade out….. worked harder than most others. And it paid off for me. Regrets? A few. But in truth, I LOVED it (and am loving it.)

Competency, likeability and damned hard work.

These are the three vital ingredients to fast-tracking career success. Yes – you can do it another way, and be a brilliant, disruptive game changer (think Jobs, Picasso and Trump). They might not have had all three ingredients working in tandem always (eg likeability!), but they were exceptions. For us mere mortals, deliver three out of three, or always sit in the wasteland of mediocrity.

Harsh, but true. How are you scoring today against each?


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17 Responses to The Three Vital Ingredients To Fast-Tracking Career Success

  1. Jim Roy June 24, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    The most I could give myself was 25 I think?
    We shall see!

    • Chris Savage June 26, 2015 at 10:20 am #

      Thanks Jim. Not too bad a score!

  2. Dan Bleakman June 24, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    Spot on Chris… the ‘lucky’ ones in life are ‘lucky’ because they worked hard to be ‘lucky’…

    • Chris Savage June 26, 2015 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks Dan! Agree!

  3. Neil Bolton June 24, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    Chris, I don’t think I could add anything more. its as simple, and as hard, as that.


    • Chris Savage June 26, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks Neil

  4. Ian Hamilton June 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    Good insight Chris, working in a recruitment consultancy focusing on culture fit the only thing I would add is don’t always self rate, particularly on the likeabilty scale, get others to rate you regularly to make sure you don’t become a product of your own imagination

    • Chris Savage June 26, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Good point Ian.

  5. Sam Durand June 24, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    No 1 and 3 are the easiest of the three, 2 takes some serious work! Very well put and agree completely.

  6. Claire Lyn June 24, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    Excellent, I really appreciate your amazing grasp of business and people – and how these two concepts fit together. I always learn something from every article. Thank you!

    • Chris Savage June 26, 2015 at 10:17 am #

      Pleasure Claire. Chris

  7. Sue Sutton June 25, 2015 at 4:06 am #

    I disagree with you about the need to put in longer hours. Yes, you need to work hard but it’s efficiency that counts, not just the hours. It’s no good staying late at the office every day if you don’t actually achieve anything with those extra hours. I admire the person who can get the job done AND go home at a reasonable hour much more than someone who works late because they stuffed around chatting or surfing the web for half the day and then found that they still had things they needed to get done before close of play. I’d say you need to work smarter, not harder.

    • Chris Savage June 26, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      Sue- I don’t disagree with your view. I mention working in efficiency and effectiveness. I still reckon, though, even if you are a productivity ninja, that working hard is critical. I believe in the mantra of All Black Brad Thorne. “Champions do more.” No matter how good you are, go the extra mile. There are very few others on that route. Chris

  8. Ange Connor June 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Great blog Chris, loved it! So true and completely agree with working harder – its about having the hunger to go the extra mile and work harder than your competition. It gets noticed and sets you apart. Thank you!

    • Chris Savage June 30, 2015 at 9:21 am #

      Thanks Ange!

  9. Chris Pillay July 8, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    Thank you. Agree with you 100%. Whilst all 3 ‘ingredients’ are important, I’d place more emphasis on Competency. Having the knowledge is the foundation, developing the intellect (how to use the knowledge), takes time. Work at your knowledge and build your intellect – it will sharpen your Competency and equip you for the road ahead.

    • Chris Savage July 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

      Thanks Chris

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