Career Common Sense: Strategies Used by Successful Professionals

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Cheryl Cage, one of the top career consultants in the aviation field, identifies six key approaches and traits that separate successful professionals from struggling ones. Cage's two decades of experience in guiding thousands of clients into aviation careers has convinced her that following these six simple strategies on a daily basis with dedication and motivation can help maximize your prospects for career success.

TrainingEarly in my consulting career, I began to notice certain approaches and traits that were common to successful professionals. On the flip side, while working with struggling professionals, I saw a commonality in their mistakes. The area where the successful professionals excelled were often the areas where struggling professionals made their mistakes.

All technical experience and expertise being equal, if you can adopt the following strategies, your chances for a smoother career path could dramatically increase.

1. Keep Networks Active

Many positions within aviation (especially entry to mid-level) are discovered by hearing about job openings from a friend or colleague. Successful professionals keep their networks active, even if they feel they have reached the pinnacle of their careers. They stay in contact with other professionals within their field, keep in touch with former employers and coworkers, and are actively involved in professional organizations. Through keeping their networks active not only do they keep themselves in the "loop" for new opportunities but, if they are responsible for hiring or training, they can be the first to hear of a wonderful employee who is looking for a new challenge!

These professionals not only network for personal opportunities, they keep their eyes open for opportunities others might enjoy. They approach life with a "mentor philosophy." They are open and generous with their knowledge. Secure in themselves and their talents, they are not afraid to help others succeed.

2. Do the Necessary Research

Aviation is an incredibly safety oriented, government regulated and critiqued, publicly viewed industry. Successful professionals adhere to high safety standards and are cognizant of the need for rules and regulations. Because of these facts, they understand the importance of discovering whether their potential employer is also dedicated to maintaining high standards in safety and compliance.

It is extremely disruptive to your career progression to have to leave a company after a few months because you discover the rumors about poor maintenance practices were true. It may be more disruptive to find yourself unemployed because the company declares bankruptcy three weeks after you begin work. You can alleviate finding yourself in any of these situations by simply doing some basic homework. Visit the library or the Internet and review the company's financial history. Talk to past and present employees and listen closely to their impressions about the company work atmosphere and financials. A few hours of research can spare you months of unemployment! (In addition, knowing about the company also prepares you to shine in the interviewing process.)

3. Respect Employers and Coworkers

One of the most consistent traits successful professionals possess is an appropriate respect for their employers and coworkers. This does not mean they follow orders without question or constantly acquiesce to their employers and peers. In fact, many of these professionals have reputations for speaking their minds (see#4).

Successful professionals rarely use sick leave and when they do, the time off is valid. They have a reputation for chipping in when extra help is needed and respond as true team players. They view every responsibility with equal importance from grooming to completing projects on time to brainstorming about ways to improve their job performance and thus the company's bottom line. Although they look for ways to improve, their goal is not to uncover "shortcuts" to make their job easier. In addition, you will rarely hear one of these individuals speak poorly about the company or its employees outside the proper channels.

When these professionals feel it is time to pursue other opportunities, their current job never takes a backseat to their job search. When they acquire the new job they show their respect and loyalty towards their employer by giving the minimum two-week notice. During those two weeks they continue to give full attention to their job (see #5).

4. Express Opinions and Handle Conflicts with Empathy

Successful professionals understand that, although their own opinions are valid, there is never an excuse to embarrass another or be condescending to a less experienced co-worker. Because of this knowledge, they express their opinions, voice their concerns and handle conflicts in a mature, straightforward and confidential manner.

Whenever possible, professionals go throughout the chain of command to resolve conflicts and problems. They give coworkers and bosses the benefit of the doubt. They confirm rumors before reacting, keep confidences and do not contribute to personal gossip.

5. Stay Focused During Transition

In a field like aviation it is not uncommon to change jobs. When making a job transition, these professionals never forget the importance of remaining focused and dedicated to their current job.

I worked with one young professional who had finally been offered his dream job. He appropriately gave his current employer notice that he would be leaving in one month. During that month, he took sick leave when he was not ill. He also became lackadaisical in his attention to detail which resulted in his not being available when he was scheduled to work.

Unfortunately, when his dream company called for a recommendation, his current employer was in the process of making the decision to terminate him because of current problems. Needless to say, the job offer was rescinded and his current employer made the decision to terminate him. Only through his past good work record, sincere embarrassment over his mistakes and his complete acceptance of responsibility was this individual able to save his job. This was a very hard way to learn an important lesson.

6. Pursue Excellence

The successful professional never does just the minimum. In required professional courses and testing, they begin the preparation process early and are always prepared to do their best. They are knowledgeable about current events in their field. They are open to new ways of approaching old tasks.


As you can see, there is nothing magical about these six strategies. However, although they are simple, it does take dedication and motivation to put them into action on a daily basis.

As an adult, the only requirements to join the ranks of successful professionals are a true desire to succeed in a career that you love, an openness to constructive criticism and the ideas of others, and the motivation to replace old habits with newer, more positive approaches.

You most likely have all of the requirements, so begin using these approaches today and enhance your chances for success!