Taking Control Of Your Career

This post is by Phil La Duke, a partner in the Performance Assurance Practice for ERM. La Duke has over 20 years of training, performance improvement, and lean manufacturing experience.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of my favorite tips for building a great career.

  • To Thine Own Self Be True. It can be a precarious balance between trusting what you know is right and listening to advice from people with more experience. You have to trust your gut while at the same time considering that people may be right when they think you’re crazy. Don’t fret. Copernicus, Einstein and Jobs all had their detractors. Then again, for every misunderstood genius there are 100 perfectly understood idiots.
  • Nobody Has a Monopoly on the Truth. Society tends to revere those who are staunch and unyielding in their beliefs. That’s dangerous. It’s wise to listen to a variety of opinions and learn from as many people as you can, but never mistake stubbornness for conviction or conviction for wisdom.
  • Pay Attention to Personal Branding. Personal branding is the centerpiece to any professional success. Do some serious soul searching into how others perceive you and how you want them to perceive you. Everything matters: from how you “show up” for things like meetings, to your email, to interaction with colleagues, to how you dress and the language that you use.
  • Network. Everyone matters. Stay in touch and on good terms with as many people that you meet as you can. Do favors for people without reminding them that they owe you. Ask people to do you favors and remember that you owe them. (People will always stay in touch with people who owe them favors).
  • Read Widely. Perhaps the most powerful tool for professional growth is reading. Read, but read with hard eyes and a skeptical heart. Seek out things with which you disagree and dismantle the arguments they make ONLY after you have truly heard them with an open mind. Understand that your deepest held values of today may embarrass and shame you tomorrow; it’s a natural part of growth.
  • Be Generous with Credit, Stingy with Blame. Who gets the credit for things really doesn’t matter in the long run. If your boss takes credit for your idea, recognize two things: It’s your job to make your boss look good, and nobody believes that your boss suddenly got smarter the day you started working for him/her. Similarly, be stingy with blame; who is at fault isn’t as important as how you contribute to fixing things and making sure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Persevere. Life’s lessons are painful, and unless you find yourself scared, stressed, or in some way unsettled by life’s lessons you probably aren’t learning or growing too much. The most important values you will have in life typically come out of the crucible of fear and anxiety.

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  • http://www.safetyprogramnow.com Michael D. Lawrence

    Well, Phil, I would have to agree that this is some of your best writing. Very wise suggestions. I would only add: Give freely and often. This is something that you have clearly done in your career, as you help others grow in their own. Good job!

    • http://www.philladuke.wordpress.com Phil La Duke

      Thanks Michael, for reading, for commenting, and for the excellent addition. My hope was that this piece would stand out from all the “five tips to a better…” that clogs up the web. Time will only tell.

  • Andrew McQueen-Thomson

    HI Phil,
    As usual I have really enjoyed your advice. I especially beleive that being generous with praise is critical to any success in life or work.
    Read Widely, exactly! Nothing I can add, goodness knows I am trying to work through arund 30 books thus far.
    Persevere,truly this business of safety requires perseverance, set the example of how to work safely etc. Lead by example; as water wears down stone so you shall slow change things.
    Phile these are just my little thoughts on what you’ve so eloquently expressed, many thaks for sharing your thoughts.:)

    • http://www.philladuke.wordpress.com Phil La Duke

      Thanks Andrew, this post was originally three seperate letters that I wrote to people asking me how I became successful (apparently, for those who know me, that’s a real puzzler). As I read what I had written to the three of them I decided to write a blog post but when I finished it didn’t seem to fit the average “5 tips for a better resume format” and I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested. I sent in some of my other guest blogs (most notably “how to quit your job”) and almost as an afterthought decided to include this; I really didn’t expect it to bet published because it’s a bit offbeat compared to my other writing (the folks at Monster are great to work with but they have really high standards). The editors loved it, and the response I’m getting to it has been very powerful. I’m glad you liked the piece and found value. Thank you so much for taking time to comment; I really appreciate it.



  • http://www.nagace.com VENUGOPAL RAO

    Dear Phil,

    Excellent message . I fully agree with your fruitful message to all EHS professionals.

    • http://www.philladuke.wordpress.com Phil La Duke


      Thank you for your comment and for reading. I think this particular message transcends the safety community, but your point is well taken.