A New Career and 8 Common Truths You Can’t Ignore

Taco, cutout on white background

When we say it’s a ‘law of nature’ it’s usually a shorthand for how things normally go. A rhythm or pattern that is true more often than not. In business, there are also unspoken truths embedded in human nature and how we work.

These eight common truths are often unmentioned, yet they will likely be an undercurrent to your career now and in the future.

  1. If your company’s main purpose is tacos, stay close to the tacos. Companies have core businesses that drive their success and usually offer a greater volume of opportunities. Most investment and attention will focus on the core business. Ancillary businesses can certainly create opportunity if you have the right skills and expertise. Yet, early in your career, as you build your knowledge, your options may be more limited the further you get from the tacos.
  1. Visibility isn’t just for sales people. You may be in a metrics based business, heads down in analysis, or a scientist. You must still translate your work and ideas for the rest of the business. Those who are known and have a network of relationships have an advantage. We naturally have a more positive impression of those we interact with most because we have firsthand experience with them and their work.
  1. The bigger the office/location/hub the more opportunity you have. Career opportunities and the chance for more rapid advancement increase with more choices. It’s simple math. If you want the greatest number of options to progress and advance then be in a location with the greatest number of positions. Also, a huge side benefit is that your sponsors are more likely to stay around for their next move. (See #4)
  1. One advocate is never enough. Career progression and opportunity come from great work plus having advocates. These advocates say good things about you to others, ask for you to work on their projects and watch out for you in reorganizations, at promotion time and when there are layoffs. Never rely on just one person, including your boss, or you put your career in the hands of someone that may leave tomorrow. It’s easier if you work in a location with a concentration of sponsors, former bosses and coworkers.
  1. Career doesn’t equal your current job. It’s a big world out there. Those who can picture what they want to do in the future can engineer the career they want. If you limit your thinking to ‘what I can do next in my group?’ – because that is all you can see – your career can become very small. Always start with what you want and work back from there. Those who have their own version of career success usually transcend their current org chart and get what they want.
  1. Industry can matter more than the job. Choose your industry carefully as it will drive working environment, progression opportunities and lifestyle. Gather information upfront on the ease of movement across industries in your area of expertise. We talk so much about jobs that industry can get way underplayed -though the impact is huge.
  1. Brand names have a shelf life. It’s so common to hear descriptions like this even 20 years later, “She started out at Deloitte” or “He advanced at Nike.” This is code for ‘this person made it in an organization with really high standards.’ This shortcut has helped countless individuals get the interview, build their professional reputation or have an opening to make recommendations. A recent graduate I met put a small difference in annual salary over a really well-regarded  organization and great role. Don’t underestimate this association with a brand name because it can last a very long time.
  1. Not all expertise is portable. Expertise tied to one organization’s way of working is very limiting. Experience with a technology or process that is valuable outside your four walls increases your marketability and your options. Build expertise that is portable, that you carry with you, and build on it throughout your career. This expertise will ensure you can advance and progress even if you are in another group or company.

I hope you have encouragement to follow your dreams, be authentic and create the career you’ve always wanted. I believe in each of these. Yet, where and how you pursue these goals will matter.

There is no one formula for creating the career you want. You will increase your likelihood of success if you consider the common truths that will give you that push of momentum or get in your way.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults. You can follow her on @pattibjohnson.