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A Google executive shares the 5 things to avoid doing for a successful career

Career ladder climbing success
Daniel Rizea, a director of engineering at Google, advises against extreme job-hopping. While you may earn more money for a while, your performance will plateau, and you will not learn new skills.

  • Daniel Rizea is a director of engineering at Google.
  • He says those aiming for success should avoid pushing for premature promotions and job-hopping.
  • Being trustworthy and slowly building up complex skills is crucial for long-term career success.

Charlie Munger, the legendary investor and Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, was once asked what it takes to be a successful investor.

His reply was surprising, if not simple: Think of the things you will do that will make you fail and just avoid doing them. Avoiding ruin is better than chasing after fast and easy tricks for success, which usually turn out to be wrong.

It’s fascinating how our brains can come up with reasons for something to fail rather than things that must be done to succeed. For thousands of years, we’ve had to spot things that might pose a threat to stay alive. So how can we use this to our advantage, and what should high achievers do to reach their full potential?

Thinking back to Charlie’s advice, I came up with five things you should avoid doing in order to have a successful and meaningful career.

1. Avoid pushing for a promotion when you’re not ready yet

Getting a promotion when you’re not quite ready may negatively impact yourself and your career trajectory. I have seen many people burn out and quit because they were underperforming at their new level.

You go from somebody who overachieves to somebody who underdelivers based on the new role and expectations. Imposter syndrome kicks in, and you can go down a spiral. This is very discouraging and can be overwhelming.

I experienced this firsthand, but my luck was that I learned to swim after I had jumped in the water. Looking back, it would have been better to wait a little more, polish my skills first, and then go for a promotion a year later. It turned out OK in the end, but the pressure was high.

There’s a reason promotions are usually based on evidence of next-level traits and not on potential. You get comfortable performing at the next level, you know what success looks like, and it becomes natural to do next-level work. Skipping this has big consequences for both employees and businesses.

Most people overestimate their readiness for promotion — it’s a normal bias. A good way to see if you’re ready is to think about how you would feel if you were promoted tomorrow. If this surprises you, you are most likely not ready because you don’t see yourself performing at that level.

You can fool others, but it’s harder to fool yourself. Do the work; it will save you a lot of pain compared to trying out shortcuts.

2. Don’t fly below the radar

Doing the bare minimum has multiple downsides. It stops your growth, reduces your engagement toward your work and your happiness, and makes you less lucky.

It’s easy to spot people flying below the radar. They do the bare minimum, hoping to get an OK review with minimum effort. Some also take pride in sharing their tips and tricks on social media platforms and exchanging ideas with others on how best to accomplish this. It’s a pity because they could use the same enthusiasm to improve their craft and not search for shortcuts. Instead, they just disconnect themselves from the things they do.

Everybody wants to take pride in their work, and nobody likes to feel that they are failing. Not being engaged has direct implications for overall happiness.

Doing this directly impacts your success because career-changing opportunities will elude you. You will miss that one project that may have changed your career or that chance of changing your area altogether because those opportunities will go to other people.

3. Stop avoiding the work

There’s no easy way around it: regardless of how smart you are, you still need to put in the hours. Some people waste a lot of time figuring out creative ways or shortcuts and realize they might as well have done the work.

On average, it takes 20 hours of deliberate practice before learning a new skill. This could be playing the guitar, cold calling, writing code, or even writing blog articles. Josh Kaufman has written a book on this.

The main problem is that most of us avoid doing those 20 hours for years, pushing the things we want in life even further away.

It was the same in my case. I wanted to start writing but kept pushing out my 20 hours of practice for years. When I finally carved out the time to do it, it became something I really enjoyed.

There is some magic behind the scenes. After 20 hours, you become decent, meaning you don’t feel like you are failing. This is very important because, at this point, continuing to do the work requires less energy on your part. You just need to push through the discomfort of the start.

4. Avoid extreme job-hopping

This is another one that slows down your growth. You may get more money for a while, but things will plateau: you won’t get better, and you won’t learn new skills.

I’ve seen people take pride in how many jobs they’ve had. I know about an extreme case with 8 jobs within 10 years. The issue is that they probably have had their first-year experience 10 times in a row.

If you’re an individual contributor who wants to advance in a leadership position, you need at least two years to grow this skill set. Why? You must build trust with your team, take on a big project, deliver it successfully, and repeat the process a couple of times. If you change your job every year, you’ll never develop your leadership skills fully. You’ll start multiple times from the same spot but never complete the full cycle.

Some jobs are worth leaving—it may be the culture or the organization—but try to be mindful that every change has a cost. Avoid optimizing for the short term at the expense of the long term.

5. Don’t be untrustworthy

Trust is essential. It’s hard to obtain and easy to lose. When someone new joins a team or organization, the team assesses, consciously or subconsciously, whether the person is competent and trustworthy.

Believe it or not, there is a trust formula out there. It involves balancing credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation.

  • Credibility is linked with your words and how believable you are. Expertise helps a lot with this.
  • Reliability is about your actions and if people can depend on you.
  • Intimacy involves psychological safety and how safe others feel when they share things with you.
  • Self-orientation is linked with your motives and how much you keep in mind and act in the interest of others versus just self-interest.

Here are some actions you can take to build trust:

  • Find things the team cares about to solve and say you will do them. This ties in with self-orientation.
  • Do the thing and do it well. This shows proven competence.
  • Follow up and show that it has been solved. This will close the loop and increase your reliability in the eyes of a group or person.
  • Be mindful and invite diverging opinions, help people out, and create a safe space for communication. This contributes to psychological safety.

It’s very important to take all of the actions; otherwise, the formula will not work. Do this all the time, and you will build a reputation as somebody trustworthy.

Putting the steps together

How can you reach your full potential? We just flip the above points:

  1. Advance to the next level only when you’re ready; focus on the work needed to be done that will get you there.
  2. Find ways to be engaged in your work, learn new skills, and keep growing. This will positively impact your happiness and your career.
  3. Do the work, push through the discomfort of something new, get past the 20-hour mark, and you will be able to master any new skill.
  4. Give yourself time to develop complex skills before moving to a new job. The longer a skill takes to develop, the more valuable it is.
  5. Finally, try to be trustworthy. This will give you a big competitive advantage, given that competence is slowly being commoditized by AI.

The road to achieving your full potential is not easy. We often shy away from the work and search for shortcuts to move faster and skip the pain involved. This often creates a detour that pushes our goals further away. Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself that the work still needs to be done, so I might as well start.

Disclaimer: The views presented are my own and can’t be attributed to any past and current employers.

Daniel Rizea is a director of engineering at Google who writes about management and leadership in tech. He is a technology enthusiast and former startup founder.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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