Welcome to Smart Like How! This space is dedicated to exploring the levers of career advancement which help young professionals succeed quickly but are too often left unexplained and unused. I decided to start this blog for a combination of reasons. First, I saw a lack of good resources designed for people who are just beginning their careers. Bookstores are loaded with titles on management, strategy, entrepreneurship, and other topics, yet I found none that addressed what I really thought was hardest about being new to the working world. How do you get good assignments when you have ambition and smarts but no track record? How do you network with people when you have little to offer people in return for their connections? How do you get big things done when you have no authority? If you’re lucky, you have good managers and mentors to show you the ropes, but most people I fear have to figure these and so many other challenges out for themselves. And as a result, they tend not to get better at these things for a long time, if ever. There is simply no good reason for this, and I want to help people who are just starting their careers skip the waiting part and advance their careers faster.
The second thing that spurred me to start writing is demographics. Simply put, there are more people graduating from college today than at any point in human history, which means that it has never been harder to set yourself apart on the basis of being smart and educated. And the competition for the best jobs keeps pretty much everyone working hard. I certainly found this to be the case when I entered the workforce. I came from a “top” school and felt I was smart, but it was incredibly challenging to keep up with, much less outperform my peers. It’s hard to move up in the world when being a smart, hard-working person makes you like millions of other people. In short, I think there’s a different kind of “smart” that far too many young people discount the value of, and they overinvest in simply working crazy hours. I want to share what I’ve learned to help today’s newly-minted professionals not fall into the same pathologies that many of us have.
The third thing that made me start capturing my thoughts was repeatedly seeing how the “smartest” people (at least in the IQ sense) aren’t necessarily the most successful in the professional world. That’s a big change from school, and it takes many a while to process what that means. Success in the professional world demands more skills of you than just plain old smarts. Among other things, the people I’ve seen capture the most success early in their careers were the ones who were the best at creating opportunities for themselves and then translating each opportunity into the next one, or two, or three. The things that most people left to luck or allowed to happen gradually, they instead took control of from the start. Some people are naturals at these things; they’re the ones who just “get it”. But these things aren’t magic; in fact they are extremely learnable for those who pay attention to them.
This is not a blog about business per se. While business is the terrain in which my lessons have been learned and applied, my focus is on how to approach your work differently to get ahead faster than you otherwise would. A lot of what we think of as “wisdom” that people accumulate over time really shouldn’t take long to figure out. Often, the only reason it does is because we don’t pay attention to some of these things until they become blindingly obvious after we are several years into our careers. In an age where we increasingly fetishize certain “hard” skills like programming and data science, discussing anything qualitative seems almost passé. But career advancement is, was, and always will be a function of how much value you add to your organization and how well people understand the value of your contributions. When you work for other people, trust often plays a crucial role in decisions to allocate responsibility and authority to you. It’s not that you shouldn’t work hard – rather, it’s that you shouldn’t work so hard and then fail to do the subtler things that can cement your success. My goal is to help you understand those things and apply them to your career, and I’m excited to explore this subject from every angle with you.
You can always hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on the blog; I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. My regular posting schedule will be Tuesdays and Fridays, and make sure your sign up for my email list to get the latest delivered to your inbox. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
And finally, stay tuned for updates on my forthcoming book which I expect to be available in the Amazon bookstore later this summer.