Advice From 5 CEOs on How to Get Ahead at Work

Jul 17, 2013
7 Min Read

If you want to learn about how to build a successful long term career, then it makes sense to turn to those who have already been there and done that. CEOs didn't just get their positions overnight - it's taken them a few decades to get there and all of them would agree that it wasn't easy. Some CEOs have been able to climb the corporate ladder from the ground up, while others switched companies several times before given the opportunity. All CEOs are salespeople - they can sell themselves and their ideas, convincing their employees and the public of why they are the best fit for the job and why their products and services matter. Here is advice from five top CEOs on how to get ahead at work:

1. Define your goals. In a New York Times interview, Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, said that "you can't realize your goal if it's not defined." He goes on to say, "start thinking about what it is because once you know it, the moment you know it, you begin manifesting it. You manifest it in explicit ways by virtue of knowing and then pursuing it, and you manifest it in implicit ways — just in the way you talk, in the way you think and the things that you say to others and the people you attract to yourself." Regardless of your position in your company, you need to have a list of achievable goals and stick to them. You should make a list in your phone so you're always carrying them around and you can remember them. If you don't have goals then you will just move around and not get anywhere or have no direction of where you want to go.

2. Choose the right people. In a Wall Street Journal interview, Michel Landel, the CEO of Sodexo, said that, "the biggest mistake I make is in choosing people." He then states that "the most complex and difficult part of my job - and any manager's job - is to pick the right individual for the right job." Most managers will just try and find someone as fast as possible and it won't be the right fit so they will have to replace their position again, which consumes more time and resources. It's far better to spend a lot of time making sure you have the right people who will click with your team and is passionate about the job, not someone who only wants a paycheck.

3. Work harder than everyone else. In a Fortune Magazine interview, Joe Echevarria, the CEO of Deloitte, said that "you have to outwork everyone else." Then he explains that "if you don't, talent will not help you. Find somewhere you really want to work and prove yourself by working hard and doing a great job." Opportunities just don't come to you - you have to go to them with persistence and hard work. The harder you work, the more luck you'll have because you'll be setting yourself up for better opportunities. If you slack off, people will notice and you won't get very far.

4. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. In a Fortune Magazine interview, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, says "when you do something you're not ready to do, that's when you push yourself and you grow." She goes on to say "it's when you sort of move through the moment of discomfort, 'wow, what have I gotten myself into this time?" If all you do is the same work you've done yesterday, you can't get ahead at work. You have to master your current role in order to prove yourself and then ask for more responsibilities.

5. Read as much as you can. In a Levo League "Office Hours" event, Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said that he reads six hours each day in order to learn everything he can about his industry or the ones he invests in. "I knew a lot about what I did when I was 20. I had read a lot, and I aspired to learn everything I could about the subject," he said. The more you know about your industry and your profession, the more you can talk about with your colleagues, the more you can bring to the table and the faster you will rise through the ranks at work.

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