When I was a junior in high school, my classmates and I were told to start thinking about our college majors, and by extension, our careers. We got personality tests, aptitude tests and earnest advice.
So, we thought, that must be how it works: you figure out what you like to do, you find a career that will let you do it, pick a major that will get you into that field and bingo, you’re done.
Fortunately, that’s not how it works at all, or I’d be the world’s most miserable forest ranger right now.
Never mind that you have no idea what you want to do at that age. Unless you are going into a family business, it’s simply impossible to precisely plan a career. You just don’t have that much control.
You get into the world and you meet interesting people and you’re exposed to lots of new ideas. Your interests change and you discover careers you never knew existed.
You build a network, and that funnels opportunities your way. You build a reputation, and that determines the quality of those opportunities.
Very few career paths follow a straight, well-planned line. Most are crooked, with turns and angles marking unexpected opportunities or unforeseen challenges.
But while you may not be able to precisely chart your career path, there’s a lot you can do to determine how successful you will be.
Success On Any Path
You can decide how you want to be perceived by others. You have enormous control over the body of work that you will build, and the successes you will create. And you have complete control over your reputation and the impression you will leave on the people you touch. These things will follow you from job to job, career to career. They will determine how successful you will be regardless of the twists in your path.
And that’s why, if your career is in management, you don’t want to be a jerk manager. Though jobs come and go and industries evolve, your reputation and your successes will remain constant. Those are the things prospective employers will see. And they are the things prospective hires will discover.
So, control the things that you can control. Keep your ego in check and behave with integrity. Focus on the job and help your employees do work you will both be proud of. Create successes that will follow you for the rest of your work life. Build relationships based on respect that will determine your next opportunities.
Know that if you do all of that, you will be a great manager. And with luck, you will inspire other managers to be great too.
To learn more about how to be a successful manager, read Don’t Be a Jerk Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management. It’s the management training you never got, available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.
Do you think you might be a jerk manager? Take the quiz!