Successful Executives

Advancing your career without those long office hours

We’ve all heard the saying, “hard work pays off”, but then why is it that certain people seem to advance quicker than others, without putting in any extra effort? The answer to this question may be both surprising and inspiring…

Trenches, hurdles, pit falls: Whether a career jump succeeds depends not only on ambition and talent. Other factors also play a major role in success.

Common Career Myths:

Success depends solely on hard work, dedication and clever planning, right? Wrong. According to US economist, Robert H. Frank, in his best-selling book “Success and Luck”, factors such as chance, good opportunities and luck are more important for career advancement. Of course, intelligence, perseverance and performance are still important, however with so few positions at the top, and so many qualified candidates, things like luck and being in ”the right place at the right time” are distinguishing upper management from executives. So what does it mean to be “lucky”?

Silver Spoon or Wooden Spoon?

There are two types of luck, the first of which we have no control over. It’s no secret that being born into a wealthy and well-connected family can certainly affect your choices and chances in a chosen career path. You will be exposed to the right contacts, have the ability to study at the best schools, and not have the added stress of financial difficulties. Thankfully, however, being born with a silver spoon is not the only way to become successful, and in fact the inability to recognize this kind of luck can have an overall negative effect on your happiness.

When we are reminded of the luck we have encountered, we naturally feel gratitude. At times those who have high income or status as a result of their birth circumstances are unable to recognize the fortunate circumstances that befell them, seeing their success as only the result of many years of hard work. Though hard work does account for much of their success, simply being in “the right place at the right time” has led to the opportunities to showcase their abilities and advance.

Social scientists Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, and Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, have been studying gratitude for decades. Through a study conducted with three groups, one of which recorded things that made them feel grateful, they found that this group reported greater happiness and alertness and described themselves as more compassionate and outgoing. The second and third groups, which were to record events that irritated them and random events, respectively, did not report any similar changes. Therefore, it seems that when people become aware of the role luck has played in their successes, they’re more grateful and, in turn, happier.

When you’ve been dealt a wooden spoon

The second kind of luck is that which you make yourself. Despite the uncontrollable factors that contribute to success, you can still succeed by taking relevant action. As Napolean said, “Ability is nothing without opportunity”, so create your own! Ultimately, professional life is an interplay of talent, effort and luck. So what can you do to achieve your professional goals if you weren’t born with a silver spoon? You can take action! Don’t make the mistake of getting too comfortable and waiting for opportunities to come to you, get out there and go to them. Try these steps to increase your luck and the likelihood of “being in the right place at the right time”:

  • Increase your visibility inside and outside of the workplace
  • Maintain your network of professional contacts
  • Attend all branch meetings and make your presence known by contributing good ideas
  • Engage in professional associations
  • Visit alumni meetings and actively network

By being diligent, following these steps, and becoming visible on platforms such as ‘Experteer for headhunters’, you can greatly increase your chances of success in any position.


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