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Myths and Truths of Success

an excerpt from the book,
How to Get a Job and Keep It: An Essential Guide to Landing Your Ideal Job and Making the Most of It
by Sue Morem
Checkmark Books, April, 2007

Chapter 1: Myths and Truths of Success

Most people start out wanting to succeed, hoping for a bright future. Yet, how many achieve the success they seek? If knowledge is power--and I believe it is--then knowing what is expected is crucial to your success. How can you know? By observing and asking questions.

People hold varying philosophies about success. You've probably heard a number of the many clichés out there: "No pain, no gain"; "It's not what you know, it's who you know"; "If at first you don't succeed, try again"; "When the going gets tough, the tough get going"; and a host of others. Some of the things people tell you can be motivating, but don't believe everything you hear. Some of it may be misleading.

To be clear about what is expected, you must sift through the myths and truths of success--both yours and others. The following truths about many common myths will help you get into the right frame of mind.

Myth: Work Hard and You'll Succeed.

Success is difficult to achieve without some hard work involved; however, plenty of people who work hard are not as successful as they'd like to be. While hard work is important, success comes from much more. You can work long hours and feel exhausted at the end of each day, but chances are you won't feel successful if that is all you do.

Success comes in many forms. One way to measure your success is to identify specific goals you want to achieve and then work toward meeting them. Once you are working, you will also need to understand your employer's goals and objectives and work toward meeting those as well.

Hard work is an important component of success, but not the only one. Your success, or lack of it, is the result of so much more. You will discover as you read this book that who you are is as important as what you do.

The most successful people understand the importance of combining hard work with the right attitude, good people skills, a willingness to learn, change, and a desire to contribute. Strive to find joy and meaning in what you do. When you enjoy going to work each day you won't even realize how hard you are working!

Myth: Success in School Guarantees Success in Work.

Many people believe that if they've been successful academically they will succeed in a job, but your career success is dependent on many additional factors. It is important to understand the difference between what it takes to succeed in school and what you need to do to excel in the workplace.

In school, if you miss a day of classes, you can find out what you missed and make up the work. If you are a part of a group, everyone is affected, but if not, the only person your absence affects is you. When you are employed and you miss a day of work, you may not be able to make up what you missed. Your absence affects those you work with and could affect your employer's business. The business world is fast paced. Your contribution, and everyone else's--from entry-level clerk to company CEO--is important. People are counting on you.

Myth: Skill and Knowledge are the Keys to Success.

There is far more to a job than just showing up and completing your work. Employers expect you to show up every day on time, looking good, enthused, and focused on the job at hand. As basic as these expectations sound, it isn't easy for many people to show up consistently in this manner. The people who do, however, have an advantage.

I've never heard of anyone criticized for being too positive or too professional, but I've heard a lot of crit icism about people who are negative, unreliable, and difficult to get along with. You will have an advantage in the workplace and in life if you are dependable, professional, flexible, and likeable.

Myth: Doing a Job Well Will Bring Success.

Doing a job well is a key factor for success, but your ability to succeed encompasses much more. Don't overlook the importance of your attitude and demeanor; picking up after yourself, pitching in without being asked, and being consistent in all of your behaviors. There are many unspoken expectations in the workplace--unspoken because employers assume you know what they want. When you don't know what is expected, you are the one who suffers. Many managers and supervisors will not address the little nuances of employee performance, and will pay attention only to the serious issues or offenses. However, it is often the little things that get in the way of a person's success.

Myth: Most People Find a Job Within the First Month of Looking.

If you're like most people, you will be excited at the start of your job search. However, if you are expecting to find a job right away, within the first month or two of looking, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Typically, the process takes much longer. Two to three months are average, but many people wait six months or more before getting the kind of offer they want to accept.

Looking for a job can--and should be--a full-time job in itself. It's tempting to use your newfound free time to relax and do as you please, but be prepared for an extended, never-ending job search if you do.

You may tire of filling out applications, going on interviews, and wait ing for a response, but keep doing these things and more. Treat looking for a job like a job by devoting ample time to your job search activities every day.

Myth: Employers Look to Hire Those with the Highest Grade Point Average.

If you wonder how your grade point average or the school you went to will affect your chances of getting a job, you may be focusing on the wrong things. Attending a top school and doing well academically are assets, but no guarantee your job search will be any easier.

You may be terrific at taking tests, but it doesn't demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively or work well with others, which is also important to employers. The results of a survey to determine what employers want most when hiring new college grads found 37 percent of employers ranked a student's major as the top priority for hiring consideration. Also very important to employers were the students' interviewing skills and their internships or experience.

When you are interviewing for a job, you need to offer more than your school smarts. You need to be business smart as well.

Myth: Most Jobs Are Found Through Advertisements.

A job search is a complicated process and must be carried out methodically. Many job seekers rely on job postings and advertisements to find a job. This is a mistake. Research has found that many, if not most, job openings are never advertised.

It is estimated that 80 percent of all professional jobs are filled through personal contacts and networking. This doesn't mean you shouldn't read the want ads, but if you want to increase your chances of finding a job, you need to do more than scan ads. There are many available resources to use, with your personal contacts being one of the best resources.

Myth: Some People Are Luckier than Others and Therefore More Successful.

Rarely is success due to luck. Although some people appear to have lucky breaks, if you take the time to look at why these people seem lucky, you will see it isn't due to luck at all. "Lucky" people create their own good fortune, which doesn't come to them as they sit passively and wait. They are actively creating and going after their goals and the success they seek.

You can do many things to increase your chances of success. Many of them are included in this book. But ultimately, your success--or lack of it--is up to you, not luck.

Myth: Success Is Complicated and Difficult to Achieve.

You probably will breathe a sigh of relief when you are finally offered a job. You may even assume that once you are hired you can let your guard down, but beware: everything you do or don't do will impact your salary and your advancement opportunities. However, success isn't as complicated or difficult to achieve as you think.

Decide now what success means to you. Identify all the things you must do to achieve your goals, then do those things.

Stay true to yourself and be yourself because you are the difference. It can take years to get where you want to be. Be patient--and be persistent. Look around and you will see that anything is possible.

Order How to Get a Job and Keep It: An Essential Guide to Landing Your Ideal Job and Making the Most of It from

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