3 simple rules for lasting career success
Top performers share key qualities that define their success. I refer to these as the Pro Laws.
- Show up when you're supposed to show up.
- Deliver what's due when it's due.
- Provide quality work at every opportunity, no matter how trivial.
I discovered these after years of being a lousy college student. I skipped classes regularly (we were given 12 absences throughout the semester, which I thought of as 12 free skip days) and I had a poor reputation among my teachers for being aloof. But I committed to a few simple rules: I'd show up to the important classes, deliver my assignments on time, and do my best work (even though my best wasn't very good).
In my later college years when tougher courses were more frequent, I held to my rules and got by with above-average grades and found favor with my teachers. At the same time, I saw that many of my classmates were flunking out simply because they didn't show up to deliver projects or even take their finals. My teachers mused, "If only they had shown up, I would've at least given them a passing grade!"
After college, I took these laws into the workplace. I shared my Pro Laws with an ambitious co-worker, who rolled their eyes at my simple thinking. "Seems lazy to me," they said. I was new in my career at the time and had no way of knowing if my rules would work out in the corporate world. But I persisted. I didn't concern myself with mindlessly working 80 hours a week or trying to make a name for myself; instead, I simply showed up to work on time, delivered on the important projects when they were due, and ensured I had the skills necessary to do my best work.
When I took a job as a web developer years later, a client told me, "We really like working with you. You just...show up and do good work with a smile, and that makes our lives a lot easier." I was starting to see that the Pro Laws were serving me well.
I moved into management years ago and saw these Pro Laws from a new perspective: how do I, as a manager, feel about people who put these laws into practice? Was I wrong?
Those who follow the Pro Laws happen to be some of our company's finest engineers.
There's an engineer on my team who has straightforward values: stay humble, show up, and do great work. He's kind, easy-going, and doesn't step on others to move up in his career. As a result, he's made a name for himself as being a "go-to guy", someone who always delivers quality work on time, whose name comes up regularly in upper management meetings as being someone who can be trusted to move big projects forward.
In short, our work will be remembered not for the number of hours contributed, but for the quality of service provided.
These laws may seem simple—or even lazy to some—but I've witnessed their success in my own life and in those I serve as a manager. With the growing trend of millennials not showing up on time to work or meetings, following these laws adds unique value in a market starving for people to just show up and deliver.