Have you ever wondered why some people advance rapidly in their careers and others don’t? Would you like to climb the ladder of success but don’t know how? Here are 14 traits of people who achieve great things by working strategically that can help catapult your career, too.

1. They Have a Clear Vision

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Successful people have a clear vision of what they want to do and don’t waver from it. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner not only aspired to reach the top of his profession but also to empower the workplace by managing compassionately. Jack Canfield, co-author of the mega-successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series, set his intention to “inspire and empower people to live to their highest vision in a context of love and joy” BEFORE writing his first book.

These sorts of personal mission statements enable professionals to go far in their chosen areas. What about you? Take the first step towards advancing your career by creating a clear vision statement of what you want to achieve in your field. Do you want to be a manager and leader? Say so!

2. They Aim High

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” ~ Steve Martin

Those who rise rapidly up the ranks strive for excellence. They have a strong determination to succeed, constantly seek to improve themselves, and do outstanding work. To add ambition to your career plan, act as though you’ve already accomplished what you wrote down for your vision statement and take it up a notch. Describe what the next level would look like for you, and make THAT your vision statement. Don’t settle for less than what you really want.

3. They Believe in Themselves

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford

People who get ahead in their careers express confidence in themselves and their work. They’re not arrogant or boastful (signs of low self-esteem). They’re simply certain of what they’re doing. When they don’t have the answers they openly admit it. They seek out the information they need and trust themselves to make good decisions.

The next time you’re worried about giving a presentation at work, take a moment to jot down 10 things you’ve accomplished in your life that you’re proud of and let that sense of certainty wash over you. Afterwards assess what worked and pat yourself on the back for it. Then determine what needs improvement and make revisions so that your next talk is even better.

4. They Take the Initiative

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Wolfgang von Goethe

Rather than waiting for something to happen, those who advance rapidly in their careers take the initiative. For example, if the boss is on vacation and the company runs out of materials, they’re the ones who order more and suggest putting a new procurement procedure in place. They make opportunities for themselves and ask for the positions and salary they want.

To advance your career, be pro-active. Use your vision statement to generate goals for yourself, your department, and your company. Get specific about when, where, and how you’ll achieve them by breaking them down into sub-goals. Do the easiest one first to start gaining momentum.

5. They Stay Focused

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” ~  Jose N. Harris

In today’s world of information overload, we need to stay focused to succeed. Those who are promoted quickly keep their eye on the ball no matter what happens around them. When work gets chaotic, projects collapse, and funds run low, they actively search for pockets of time to accomplish their goals anyway. They are disciplined, do things step by step, and finish what they start.

To stay focused on what’s important, make it a practice to record your goals for each week the weekend before. Then review them each morning before you start your day and tackle the hardest thing first. That way you’ll ensure you keep making progress during uncertain times.

6. They Use Failure as Feedback

“Failure gives you a chance to refine your approach. You’re taking risks more and more intelligently.” ~ Pete Athans (climbed Mt. Everest 7 times)

No one likes to fail  But when things don’t go as planned, people who succeed in their careers take responsibility. They don’t blame others or beat themselves up. Instead they reflect on what limiting thoughts or destructive habits could have led to the undesirable outcome. They understand that setbacks are natural, learn from their “mistakes,” and use the negative experience to improve their performance in the future.

The next time you fail, rather than getting upset and feeling like a victim, calmly ask yourself “What do I need to do differently next time to get the result I want?” View it as an opportunity to grow, course correct, and move forward using the information you gleaned from objectively studying the situation.

7. They Crave Criticism

“He who wants a rose must respect the thorn.” ~ Persian proverb

Sir Richard Branson purposefully embeds “mavericks” into every Virgin company to ensure its success because he knows that yes men kill innovation. Those who succeed quickly in their fields ask for feedback, learn from it, and use it to refine their approach.

If someone criticizes you in the workplace, take a deep breath and determine whether the naysayer has a point. Consider the source. If you trust the person and the feedback resonates, integrate it into the way you do things and do better next time.  (Yes, I know this one is tough.)

8. They Change with the Times

“The things we fear most in organizations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances – are the primary sources of creativity.” ~  Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science

The world is changing at a rapid pace. Those who move ahead promptly in their careers don’t hold tightly to the status quo. They are open and flexible and seize opportunities the moment they present themselves. They are flexible with the changing demands of the business, generate new ideas, and suggest ways to integrate innovation into business strategies.

To climb the ladder of success, make it a priority to keep up with what’s happening your area of expertise and related fields. Invite smart people out to lunch, take classes, and read. Update your skills to stay cutting-edge and constantly alter your goals to keep current.

9. They Follow Their Passions

“If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”  ~  Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passionately studied calligraphy and his aesthetic sense still distinguishes Apple products today. Those who reach the top of their fields follow what has heart and meaning in their lives. They choose to work for companies that share their values or they work for themselves. Business based on hobbies are more likely to turn a profit because these entrepreneurs persevere during tough times, even if  they don’t make money initially, because they love what they do.

If you’re in a job that doesn’t bring out the best in you, do something else. Find companies that align with your vision statement. Or if the entrepreneurial lifestyle appeals to you, ask yourself how you can you turn your passion into a business you love.

10. They Have A Good Sense of Timing

“You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” ~ Yogi Berra

According to Bill Gross’s recent TED talk, the number one factor that accounts for why start ups succeed is that their product came out at the right time. Those who soar in their fields have a good sense of timing.

To move ahead at work, keep abreast of what’s happening in your workplace and the world at large. Watch for changing trends and get a sense for when the time is right to release a new product or seek a promotion.

11. They Surround Themselves with Winners

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.” ~  Lee Iacocca

Bill Gross found that the second most important factor that allowed startups to succeed was that they were based on strong teams. Those who excel in their industries know they can’t achieve their vision alone. They surround themselves with great teams and find powerful mentors to guide them.

To succeed in your career, carefully choose who you spend time with. Success rubs off. So does failure. Don’t get sidetracked by people who aren’t on track. Surround yourself with positive successful people both inside and outside of work.

12. They Stay Consistent

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~ Tony Robbins

Those who rise to the top put consistent energy into their personal and professional lives rather than expending marathon energy. They achieve goals step by step and stay in constant contact with their staff, colleagues, and customers. They take breaks from heavy work schedules to maintain balance and ensure that they don’t run out of energy.

To avoid burnout and attain more consistency in your work, turn your goals into action items with due dates and space them out on your calendar so that they are achievable. Make sure to focus on your top one or two priorities. Tick off each goal as you reach it. That way you’ll be much less likely to lose touch with an important client or drop the ball on a game-changing plan.

13. They Persevere

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” ~  Steve Jobs

Success is not a straight line path to the top, but encompasses many troughs and valleys. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company (Apple), then founded NeXT and Pixar, and in the end returned to Apple. By the time she won Bammy’s Best NEW Artist Award, Gwen Stefanie had been singing with No Doubt for 10 years. Thomas Edison was fired from several jobs but kept his true passion for inventing and eventually obtained 1,093 patents. People who flourish in their careers keep the long game in mind.

When the path gets bumpy and you find yourself starting to give up, try a different method, route, or alternative to get what you want. Remember you always have options, and that you’re in good company if it’s taking longer than you thought to get where you want to go.

14. They Know When to Stop

“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered to be successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” ~  Zig Ziglar

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, people who succeed don’t work hard all the time. They take breaks when they experience diminishing returns, and have closing rituals to end their day. They organize their files, straighten their desks, and make a list of what to do tomorrow.

To succeed in your career, leave work at work and enjoy your hobbies, family, and friends during your time off. You’ll make room for breakthroughs and come back refreshed.

The good news is you don’t have to prioritize career advancement over everything else in your life to succeed in your profession. Work smart instead. You’ll get to the top fastest if you make a commitment to learn and hone these 14 skills of people who advance rapidly in their vocations. They’re not just reserved for career rock stars; you can master them, too. Why not start today?

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