Career Advice in 6 Words or Less

Recently, I read a great article on that posed the question, “If someone asked you to sum up in six words what you’ve learned so far about how to succeed in business, what would you say?”

The “study” definitely garnered a diverse smattering of answers ranging from how to work with your boss to how to deal with screw-ups.

Reading this article got me thinking. What would my 6 words or less be?… After much thought and consideration, I settled on one sentence that has a much bigger meaning behind it:

“Make it about the team”

Or said from another standpoint, Don’t make it about yourself.

It is natural to be self-centered, especially when it comes to your career. Nobody cares about your career as much as you do and nobody can do more to make or break your career journey than you can; however, the self-centeredness must end there.

On more occasions that I would like to admit I have made my efforts in a job all about me. I zeroed in on what would make me look good and I did whatever it took to appear better than anyone else. While this did lead to some accolades, I eventually was given a blessing…

I fell flat on my FACE! I was in a marketing position and had a peer that was doing a very similar job to mine. In the process of making myself look good and making her look bad, my boss noticed my tactics. I would not share with her key information and find ways to make my work look better than hers to others. When I was discovered this made me look stupid, and secondly it made it appear like I wasn’t a team player. It was after this that I decided to test out the flip side of the coin.

My plan was not to focus on what I did or how good I looked. Instead I focused on the task at hand and our desired end result. I made it my goal to help the rest of the team reach its goals. In doing this, something amazing happened.

I began to contribute and help others more. I became energized with the work I was doing and I felt a strong sense of responsibility for the goals the team was focused on. The even more rewarding part was that everyone around me took notice.

Others taking notice led to respect. This respect led to more responsibility. Increase responsibility led to more visibility up the chain of command to my boss’ boss’ boss (etc). Visibility then led to higher performance rating. Top ratings led to larger raises and faster promotions. All of this developed a personal brand of delivering results by serving others and focusing on the goals of the group (as opposed to my own singular goals).

All of this started because I didn’t make it about myself.  My advice is to make it about the team. Do your best and focus on what can make everyone successful. While it may not center you in the limelight, it will bring you positive results more often than it won’t.




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About Young Professional's Edge (YP Edge)

Aaron McDaniel is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. He is also the author of the book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World ( Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog, to learn more.

Posted on March 29, 2012, in Philosophy, Solid Advice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great Advice, Aaron. Too often we forget this simple principle and make it to much about ourselves.

    • Thanks Brad. Not making it about ourselves does mean that we often lose a sense of control, which is hard for many, but if we are patient it can pay off in the end.

      • Very true, Aaron. It is like with networking. Rather than say “what’s in it for me?” say “how can I help?”

        I know I have given a lot more information than I have gotten. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been productive either. It just means that the other person doesn’t know how to help me. Maybe I am not giving them the information they need to do so.

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