This article originally appeared in Forbes Coaches Council.
Both career happiness and success can vary for different people, largely dependent on their personal goals. For some, goals could be related to financial performance, while for others they may be related to helping others. The five key steps toward maximizing career happiness and success are generally applicable by any definition but are usually presented in relation to financial performance.
Career happiness means that you very much enjoy what you do on a day-to-day basis. Emotional and financial rewards from work allow for positive experiences in all non-work functions, especially when it comes to family.
Career success means that you rise in responsibility and financial performance far above the mean. You will earn much more than the average, upgrading your lifestyle, which positively affects almost everything you do.
1. Find a growing career that you will be good at and passionate about.
First off, you need to determine a career that you will be especially good at and passionate about and that will be in high demand for many years. My prior article "How Choosing the Right Major Can Lead to More Success and Less College Debt" discusses steps required to determine your best career (and related major if you are a student).
2. Build career-related networks.
For students, the best way to start a network is often by getting internships in your chosen career area, which can also be essential to landing a good job after graduation. Getting involved in local chapters of career-related societies is also a good way to begin a network for both adults changing careers and students.
3. Identify organizations with the best characteristics for success.
Identifying an organization that will give you the greatest opportunity for growth is the step toward extraordinary success that is usually most often missed. That is because most people do not intuitively understand employer growth characteristics and instead let other factors, such as the starting salary and general name recognition, influence their decision. Let me use a little of my experience to explain.
Because I went to night school for nine years to get my B.S., I had the opportunity to work for a number of organizations before I got my degree. Two of these were large, low-growth companies where I was a draftsman. In those cases, it was clear that regardless of how good of a job I did, there was no potential for advancement into a management position.
Another employer of mine was a small and stable contractor where I was a cost estimator. Although I learned a tremendous amount about construction, it became apparent that the owner was comfortable being the size he was. And so again, the potential to grow was nil.
I also worked for a small, but rapidly growing, engineering consulting company focused on geotechnical engineering, a new niche branch of traditional civil engineering. The situation here was completely opposite of those mentioned above. Everyone, including the owner, was very busy and happy doing this new type of engineering. It quickly became apparent that my managers were more than willing to give me as much work and responsibility as I showed I could handle. Because of the high growth opportunity and my passion for the work, I continued working part-time there while I attended graduate school and even got promoted twice during full-time summer work.
From these experiences, I have concluded that the best opportunity to grow fast is by working with:
• A relatively small organization, probably with less than 200 or 300 employees, that is in a high-growth market
• An owner who has entrepreneurial characteristics and is visibly involved in day-to-day activities
A company as large as 500 employees, or a new division of a larger organization, could also be candidates — but only if management is directly involved so that extraordinary performance is visible and decisions will not be "political."
And while the starting salary must satisfy some minimum, it should not be a major deciding factor relative to long-term growth potential. In my case, two years after graduation, I was making far more than any of my peers, and from there, I never looked back.
4. Identify niches in the early-growth stage (the riches are in the niches).
A niche is a small segment of a market or organization activity that is realizing changes and growth much faster than the general market or organization itself. Two quick examples are:
• The brand new and rapidly growing geotechnical engineering discipline discussed in Step 3. The much older, general civil engineering field was stable, but not in a growth stage.
• Virtual meeting services as a result of Covid-19, as many now work from home.
In each case, there will be new start-ups, or accelerated divisions, working feverishly to position themselves to gain as much market share as possible during the extraordinary growth period when demand exceeds supply. Also, in these conditions, there is usually an overall shortage of experts; therefore, the most efficient way to grow an organization is to rapidly promote the best of the existing staff.
5. Always apply the MBQ principle.
A great way to get recognized as an extraordinary performer and place yourself in a position with the greatest probability of being promoted is to apply the MBQ principle to every assignment you are given. That is, for every task you complete, keep these goals in mind:
• More: Always exceed your supervisor's expectations.
• Better: Do work that is actually a better fit for the big picture/goal than expected.
• Quicker: Finish work faster than requested. This gives your boss additional time to incorporate your work into the big picture. Better yet, see if you can find a way for the entire big picture to be completed earlier.
A prior Forbes article, "The ‘More, Better, Quicker' Principle: A Proven Pathway to Extraordinary Success," provides examples of how the MBQ principle will place you in a position with the greatest potential to be the first promoted.