Every profession has its secrets of success, the rules of success that are rarely discussed. These rules are obvious if your family has always worked in that occupation. If you are new to an industry or profession and don’t have family of friends to help out with guidance, it can take years to understand what is required to be done for sustained success.
Ever worked away hard at something and wondered why success doesn’t follow. Often you discover later that others had insights into better ways to work or a better understanding of success. In our professions and our organisations, the unspoken rules of success can be hard to glean. We rely heavily of insights from relatives, friends, mentors and bosses to separate out the rules.
Law firms tell young lawyers that the secret to success is billing. Busy young lawyers working for senior parntners is good for their wallets. It’s not your secret to success which is build your own practice with clients and particularly the ability to win clients, to make rain. Winning clients demands unbillable time making connections, building profile and promoting yourself. Many young lawyers who bill a lot for others only discover the importance of winning clients later when they start to go for partnership. What you are told and what you should do to succeed can be very different.
In one large organisation, you couldn’t succeed unless you were a mate of the big boss. Nobody discussed it but it became obvious over years. In another organisation, there were critical roles you needed on your resume to be promoted. Heaven help you if you were a lateral hire. It wasn’t discussed, but if you made enough friend they would let you into the secret eventually. In another organisation, everything was factional. Joining the right faction at the right time was all that mattered.
Organisations relentlessly tell us that they are meritocratic and that performance is the path to career success. However, our organisations are filled with humans, rich in society, culture, bias and prejudice. Merit Is mitigated by all kinds of secret rules.
Cracking secret rules can be hard if you aren’t born into the knowledge or invited it. Networks play a key role in unraveling these secrets. Take the time to ask people about their career paths. Ask people what you should do to get ahead and what they are doing. Focus on why. Mentors can play a key role in revealing the hidden paths of power and success.