Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Ten Career To Do’s

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Jim Collins kicked off the 2010 World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall with an address that had the ability to inspire or frighten an audience in equal parts.

The source for both the inspiration and the fear is the same: his belief that we’re heading into a world where there will be “no new normal” but rather a series of unexpected changes. Depending on who you are, that presents either an opportunity or a reason to fear the future—a paradox that relates to one of Collins’ key messages for individual careerists and would-be leaders: that you should spend less time thinking about your career and more time asking how you can be useful.

Collins’ address took in much of his previous findings and research in titles such as Good to GreatBuilt to Last and How the Mighty Fall. As such, it was a wide-ranging and often fast-paced affair that carried no single takeaway–or at least none that can be condensed into a live blog—on what it takes for individuals and businesses to succeed and then avoid consequent failure. He did, however, offer his audience ten “to do” items that serve as a useful summary of most of his main points, and which have the added advantage of being—for the most part—actionable career items.

  1. Do your diagnostics: At Collins’ website, there is a free diagnostic tool to self assess how you’re doing against the traits he identified in “Good to Great.”
  2. Don’t focus on career: Instead, Collins advocates focusing on “building a pocket of greatness” at whatever level/area of the company you happen to be in. Doing that is the key to getting noticed and being given more responsibility.
  3. Ask if you have the right people in key positions: What percentage of people “on your bus” are the right ones, and what’s your plan for rigorously ensuring you can get it above 90 percent?
  4. Double the ratio of your questions to statements: Great leaders seek feedback, and don’t assume they know everything. On which note…
  5. Your first question is: How is our world changing and what are the brutal facts? Do a “brutal facts inventory” and come back to it often.
  6. Turn off your electronic gadget: Create at least one day of “white space” every 2 weeks. Build in the time to do some disciplined thinking.
  7. Have the discipline to stop doing things: It’s easy to add things to a To Do list. It’s also unproductive. One method of cutting out things that matter less: rank your priorities with no ties.
  8. Get inside your personal hedgehog: Collins’ equation for determining what you should be doing with your life involves three elements: finding something you’re passionate about, feel like you’re “genetically encoded” to do and that is “useful in a way society values.” Once you figure that out, you’re a long way towards having a rewarding career.
  9. Stop doing titles: The right people for key jobs understand that they do not have a job. They have responsibilities. One way to reinforce “job” is titles. One way to reinforce “responsibilities” is by having no titles.
  10. Spend more time asking how you can be useful

Stay tuned to Vault’s Career Blog over the next two days for further updates from the World Business Forum. You can also keep up with our coverage in real time via our @vaultcareers Twitter feed.

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