Looking to Advance Your Career?

The most important advice I can offer is to be careful about following someone else’s advice.

I tell people that in a sense each of us is a storyteller. How we act, what we say and how we say it, how we dress, how we treat people, how professional (or non-professional) we act, and on and on, each represent a part of the story we tell everyone around us about ourselves. It is critical that your story be true to what you are, not what someone else is. If you try to be someone else, generally (unless you are an experienced politician) your story will ring false and not be of value.

Having said that, a few general lessons I learned that were useful to me:

Mentors. Have one, even better have more than one. Being willing to ask advice is important. Integrating that advice (see my comment on being true to yourself above) correctly is smart. I did this poorly, it made my career more painful than it had to be at times.

Do right. Many years ago I was told that I was perceived as being very talented but that I was more focused on being right than doing right. Since then I have tried, often not so successfully, to modify that approach. We each face that choice many times in our professional and personal careers, you are almost always better off focusing on what is the best result not so much on how you can prove you had the correct position.

Understand context. This is a variation on the theme of always to be trying to learn. When I was the CIO at the US Department of Transportation, I used to tell people representing companies who wanted to sell something that I divided them up into three groups: (1) Companies that wanted to sell their product or service, (2) Companies that wanted to solve my problems, (3) Companies that wanted to solve my customer’s problems. I liked most to talk to the third kind of company. The same thing is true for you as an individual dealing with someone else in your organization.

Do not send conflicted emails after 8pm. I have often thought that my entire career arc would have been different if I had followed this rule-of-thumb. I still have to work hard not to do it.

Daniel Mintz serves as the UMUC undergraduate school program chair for information systems management. Additionally, he serves as the education committee chair for The Association for Federal Information Resource Management (AFFIRM) and as senior advisor for Advance Mobility Academic Research Center (AMARC).