Career advancement is driven by a number of factors. But mainly, it takes initiative and intelligence—in that order. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked for and with many types of people. What I found is that while intelligence is a fundamental requirement for advancing in any field, it’s not the primary element that fuels career growth.

It’s all about initiative.

Initiative gets you noticed. It makes you stand out from the crowd. Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with many people who could complete a task, manage a given set of responsibilities, and meet deadlines. I’ve worked with fewer people who consistently did more than what was asked, came up with creative new ideas, took on more responsibilities just to learn new skills, and brought high levels of energy and passion to their work every day.

Initiative can’t necessarily be taught, but it can be demonstrated. It’s more a personality trait than a learned skill. One thing I’m sure of is that you know it when you see it.

Throughout my career, I stood out because of initiative. Many years ago, I worked for a woman who told me the reason I was always so busy and worked so many hours was because I continuously created new work for myself. She said, “You have great ideas, but no one is telling you to do all these things.”

The truth was that I wasn’t creating projects to get noticed. I just had ideas and was lucky enough to work for a company and a boss that gave me the freedom and flexibility to run with them. I believe it made a big difference in my career. Initiative makes you memorable.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Communications, in its broadest sense, plays a role in almost everything that happens within a company. That makes it critical to daily operations.

To succeed and stay competitive in the field of communications, you must align (and realign) to the business so that you are adding value every day. Each and every communication program and initiative should in some way directly align to a stated business priority. This will earn you respect as a valuable business partner. The effectiveness of a company’s communication strategy, and the quality of every individual communication, has a significant impact on the business.

To deliver meaningful communications that have the desired impact, first you need to have an in-depth understanding of the industry (now and for the future), as well as your company’s culture, products, customers, competitors and partnerships. Next, you need to develop strong relationships, both inside and outside the company. It’s important to have a broad base of knowledge continuously updated from multiple sources so that you can recommend, develop, and initiate effective communications. And finally, you have to thoroughly understand how and when to effectively apply various forms of communications.

Creativity, excellent writing, and good intuition are skills that come into play every day.