By: Maggie Zhang
Most people want to become successful as quickly as possible. The problem is, many don’t know how to go about doing it.
In a Quora thread titled, “How Can I Accelerate My Personal Growth?” users discussed how they get ahead in their working lives.
Here are 17 of the most practical pieces of career advice we found:
1. Determine what you have to offer. As Abraham Lincoln says, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Before thinking about how to get ahead, figure out if the direction you are going in places you in the best position to use your natural skills and contribute to those around you.
If you’re not certain yet, don’t be afraid to experiment. It takes most people a few tries to figure out what they’re good at. —Daniel Vlcek
2. Be selective in your pursuits. Don’t waste time doing menial tasks that don’t contribute much to your larger goal. Pick something that has greater impact, more responsibility, and a steeper learning curve. By doing this, you can feel certain you are always using your time in an effective way. —Satpal Parmar
3. Work at a startup, at least once. At startups, you can have a huge impact in a small company, and play multiple different roles at once. Building something from the ground up will give you experience you can’t get from anything else. Your position will also accelerate faster, whether you move to another company or rise in your current company.
You’ll also meet brilliant people who are probably smarter than you. —Lauren Holliday
4. Choose anxiety-driven growth over boredom-driven growth. When your challenges exceed your skills, you feel anxiety. But when your skills exceed your challenges, you feel boredom. In order to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we need to seek challenges that are beyond us, even if we don’t have the skills to meet them yet. —Jim Stone
5. Use the “Buffett Formula.” Warren Buffett says, “I just sit in my office and read all day.”
He estimates that he spends 80% of his work day reading and thinking. This will help you become a learning machine. —Shane Parrish
6. Approach someone who is a master at what you want to do. Take them out on a coffee date and learn as much as you can about the decisions they made. If you can, try to get them to become your mentor. This will help you deliberately practice the skills you want to learn, with someone who can give you clear, honest feedback, and who can speak from their own experience. —Shane Parrish
7. Establish a goal to eventually become the master in your field. Do whatever it takes, whether through attending conferences, reading books, or taking classes to learn as much as you can on your chosen subject. Even if you don’t end up being the number-one person in your field, it gives you a great direction to strive toward. —Daniel Vlcek
8. Give yourself plenty of opportunities to fail. “You want to be in a position where success is not guaranteed.” Definite success initially feels good, but it doesn’t help you grow. As
Woody Allen says, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
When you fail, make sure you fail forward. Learn from what you do, so you can draw from your past experiences in future situations. —Auren Hoffman
9. Create more time. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, or complaining that you don’t have enough time to accomplish your goals, realize that you can always make more time. Sit down and determine what tasks are important to you and what are trivial. Get rid of the trivial tasks by delegating, automating, or outsourcing them. —Satpal Parmar
10. Maximize your productivity on assignments. One way to do this is to always work in locations where you have control over your environment. You need to make sure you can have complete focus wherever you are. If you can’t remove a distraction, then remove yourself.
You should also reduce “context switching.” When you’re working on an important assignment, avoid multitasking. Focus on one task for long hours at a time, if possible, to maximize skill efficiency. —Satpal Parmar
11. Make time for active reflection. Every morning or evening, ask yourself two questions. What was the most important thing you did today? What is the most important thing you have to do tomorrow? This quick, 10-minute habit will ensure you will grow every day. —Daniel Vlcek
12. Surround yourself with the right people. Many people say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Without a strong social circle, you might be slowing yourself down from personal growth.
You need to be around those who are driven, optimistic, and supportive. And if you’re not around people who challenge you, or who you feel are smarter than you, then you probably should move on to a new environment. —Bud Hennekes
13. Never stop creating. Make sure that you have a lot of output, whether it’s through projects or articles written. When you have something to show for the time you’ve put in, you can accumulate a portfolio and impress future employers. —Tad Donaghe
14. Volunteer from time to time. Although this doesn’t seem like direct career advice, it is a great opportunity to gain leadership experience or learn more about a new perspective.
You’ll also be able to meet people and make friends without the typical networking environment. If you feel like you don’t have time, the key is to volunteer for short-term, high return events — you can dedicate one weekend and gain skills you can use for years to come. —Lauren Holliday
15. Never stay still. Most people hit a plateau early in their careers, because they aren’t sure what to do next, or how to get to where they want to be. “The best way to grow is through action.” Ask yourself what you can do to get closer to your goals, and then set priorities to do them. —Daniel Vlcek
16. Ask better questions. Most people ask questions that are too broad or have too wide of a scope. You need to be specific and interrogate what is going on in your own life.
Don’t ask yourself “How can I get ahead in my career?”
Identify your weaknesses, remind yourself where you are deficient, and then ask “How can I fix this?” You won’t get meaningful answers if you don’t ask meaningful questions. —Evan DeFilippis
17. Don’t always look for the fast route. Even if you do want to get ahead in your career quickly, “you cannot turn the oven up to 450 degrees to bake a cake faster.” Never stop moving in the direction where you want to be going, and be patient. —Elle D’amore