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Six Ways to Build a Successful Career

Ideas that will hugely increase your chances for success!

5/28/2021 | Steve Woodburn, The Only Constant is Change

“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.” Astronaut Jim Lovell

I’m excited to be part of a new podcast on PromoCorner launching next month called “ProFiles”. We’ll be interviewing icons in the promotional products industry to hear their stories, learn how they got into this crazy business, and to understand what success means to them. 

After several interviews, I’ve learned much about success and what it takes to be extraordinary not only in this business, but in any industry. I’ve distilled their thoughts into six ideas that will hugely increase your chances for success and personal fulfillment in your life.

Build Relationships - If there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s the fact relationships are what make for a successful career. One-time sales are great (especially really BIG ones!), but it’s those long-term customers who will sustain you through good times and bad. In today’s world, your customers can find pretty much anything they want on the Internet without you. By bringing value and building trust, your customers will continue to work with you knowing your efforts and experience far outweigh any difference in price. “The first step in exceeding your customer's expectations is to know those expectations.” Roy H. Williams

Be Honest - Remember Bernie Madoff, The King of The Con? He built a multi-billion dollar business based on lies, deceit and a Ponzi scheme ensnaring celebrities Kevin Bacon, Stephen Spielberg, John Malkovich and Larry King, among others. He lived lavishly for decades until it all fell apart and he died in prison, a broken man. While “honesty is the best policy” may sound trite, it’s the foundation upon which success is built. Without it you will never create those important relationships, your reputation will suffer, and people won’t want to be associated with you. By taking the high road and making honesty an integral part of your being, you will flourish and find others respect you and turn to you for advice and guidance. “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” William Shakespeare

Use Failure to Your Advantage - Can you name one successful person who hasn’t faced failure, often multiple times? From Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs, Walt Disney to J.K. Rowling, all faced defeat and failure before becoming amazingly successful. Each of us faced failure early on when we tried to take our first steps and crashed back to earth again and again and again. Many know Babe Ruth as the Home Run King, but did you know he struck out almost twice as many times and reined supreme as the Strike Out King of his day? Failure can seem like a morass from which you’ll never return, but remember all failure is temporary. Take stock of what happened, understand what went wrong, devise ways to avoid similar mistakes in the future, and then get back in the saddle. Self-pity gets you nowhere, so use failure and the stories it creates to open yourself to new opportunities for success. “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” Truman Capote

Volunteer - Without exception, those I speak with tell me volunteering is a huge part of their success. Given how everyone is stretched these days, it would seem volunteer work would be one of the first things people opt out of. The truth is, volunteering (be it in our industry or with outside groups) will introduce you to new people and new ways of thinking, as well as help you build relationships that last a lifetime. As a volunteer for my local association (GAPPP), the Regional Association Council (RAC) and the PPAI Board, I made many new friends while sharing my expertise and opinions to help make our industry stronger. And many of those people I met are still friends and connections I call on regularly for advice and inspiration. Consider volunteering with a group you’re passionate about and you’ll quickly understand why it’s a key to success. Research has shown that people who volunteer often live longer.” Allen Klein.

Mentor - Dictionary.com defines mentor as a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. While we usually make the conscience decision to volunteer, being a mentor is usually something that comes about unforeseen. Being a mentor means helping others who are less experienced or less knowledgeable and coaching them in their personal or career development. Chances are you can think of at least one person in your life who guided and mentored you, helping you gain a new perspective and giving you the tools you needed for success at that particular time in your life. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and even Mother Teresa all have written about the mentors that changed their lives. Becoming a mentor will change your life and perhaps transform the lives of those you touch. “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Steven Spielberg

Always be Learning - I was shocked to read a 2018 Pew Research Center survey noting 24% of U.S. adults hadn’t read a book in the previous year. For many, education ends with either a high school or college graduation and yet to stay ahead in today’s world with everything changing so quickly, lifelong learning is imperative. My youngest son isn’t really a fan of reading, so he listens to audio books incessantly. It’s essential you find ways to continue educating yourself whether it’s online courses (many of them free) on subjects that interest you, listening to audio books, finding apps offering courses or information related to your field, watching YouTube videos, or doing it the old-fashioned way and reading a book. Whatever you do, never, ever stop learning. Not only will it contribute to y0ur success, but it will keep your brain active, engaged and healthier as you age. “It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.” John Wooden

Success is defined differently for each of us; however, the steps above will help put you on a path where achievement, whatever that means to you, is the ultimate outcome. 

The road to success is a lifelong journey filled with challenges, frustrations, roadblocks and failure. Hang in there and remember that hard work, resilience, and determination to succeed will overcome the challenges you face and make your triumphs that much sweeter.

And I’d be honored if you check out our new “ProFiles” podcast starting next month to see how others have built their careers using the ideas formulated above.

Steve Woodburn started hustling early in life, landing his first on-air radio gig when he was just 20 and spending the next 20 years as a DJ, news anchor, talk show host and traffic reporter. He found the promotional products business totally by accident (as do most) working 29 years on the distributor side and five as a supplier. Steve won multiple sales awards along the way and volunteered his time with his local association, the Regional Association Council (RAC) and served on the PPAI Board of Directors. He's currently the Chief Adventurer of Marvelous Moosey Adventures, a company he and his wife created, and pursues acting, writing and voice-over work. Connect with Steve on Linkedin or via email at successnow09@gmail.com
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