College of Business and Innovation study offers tips for career survival, advancement

August 29, 2012 | Research, UToday
By Vicki L. Kroll

It’s something every employee thinks about: How can I survive — and thrive — at work?

With today’s uncertain economy, answering that question has never been more important.


“We wanted to find out how to keep your job, how to get promoted, and how to get ahead,” said Dr. Clinton Longenecker, UT professor of management.

He led a study conducted by the UT Center for Global Competitiveness, which surveyed more than 6,000 managers across North America.

“We sampled top, middle and front-line managers in nearly every major industry: high-tech, mining, chemical, health care, automotive, banking, financial services, steel, retailing, telecommunications and transportation,” Longenecker said.

“We asked all these managers to identify and rank the factors they considered to be most important to their personal career success and survival.”

The result: “What You Need to Know for Career Survival and Success in the 21st Century,” which was published in a recent issue of Drake Business Review.

“That research article features a top 10 list of career survival and success factors,” Longenecker said. “Review the list and think about how you stack up as a business leader and an employee.”

The top 10 things to focus on to keep your job and advance in your career are:

1. Getting desired results/creating a strong performance track record. “You must clearly define what you are being paid to achieve, establish what your value-added role in the business is and deliver. To not do so is a career killer,” Longenecker said.

2. Employing effective communication skills and practices. “You must be able to communicate effectively with superiors, co-workers, customers, suppliers and direct reports,” he said. “Our survey shows that ineffective communication skills frequently destroy careers at every level of an enterprise.”

3. Nurturing strong working relationships and networks. “Strong working relationships with people around you are essential to doing your job well and getting great results,” Longenecker said. “You must be able to work well with others and in teams for ongoing and real success.”

4. Possessing a positive personality. “Your personality and attitude can be career-enhancing or career-busting,” Longenecker said. “When all other things are equal and a downsizing decision is required, employees with negative personalities and bad attitudes are frequently the first to go.”

5. Staying current and developing yourself to meet the demands of your job. “Ongoing learning is a must. It’s your responsibility to take the time, effort and energy to develop your talent regardless of how busy you are with the day-to-day activities,” he said.

6. Leveraging work experience. “Focus on three things: Learn from your past mistakes, don’t repeat them, and apply those lessons to your daily job,” Longenecker said.

7. Handling pressure and stress — and staying poised. “The workplace is a pressure cooker. Develop a plan to do your job that minimizes unnecessary stress. Improved planning, effective delegation, time and priority management, and personal reflection are tools that can help deal with pressure,” he said. “Staying poised and in control is critical, as panic begets panic.”

8. Demonstrating decision-making and problem-solving prowess. “When good decisions are made, good things happen,” Longenecker said. “Career success requires leaders and employees to be able to change and adapt to improve operations. Key to that is your ability to make good decisions and solve real problems quickly.”

9. Using power and resources effectively. “As we’re all being asked to do more with less, it’s imperative to use your power, influence and resources to marshal forces to get things done,” he said. “Over-controlling and micromanaging can be career killers. Use your power to build team spirit and a strong performance track record needed for success.”

10. Fostering a meaningful mentoring relationship. “Our survey indicated effective mentoring provides three critical development accelerators: giving counsel, creating accountability, and delivering emotional support,” Longenecker said. “And managers can greatly enhance their own leadership skills when they receive mentoring and when mentoring others.”

How did you stack up?

“At the end of the day, employees and leaders are paid to deliver results in a progressive, principled and sustainable fashion; these key factors cut across organizational levels, industries and even countries,” Longenecker said. “It might be worth your time to develop a game plan around this top 10 list. Your career survival, success and sanity just might depend on it.”

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