One question I am frequently asked by young professionals is how to make their hours of hard work count toward career advancement? Many feel they are treading water — working long hours and spending whatever time is needed to get the job done but not getting to the next level. To understand the actions that best enable you to move up the career ladder, let’s look at what separates the top 10 percent performers from the rest of the field?

The Character of Success

In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle identifies The Three Rules of Deep Practice. Whether it’s music, sports, writing, or any other discipline, Coyle writes that it is through deep practice that you develop the specific characteristics that differentiate you from the crowd.

Here are Coyle’s Three Rules:

  1. Chunk It Up – First, look at the task you face as one big chunk and find an example of someone who has succeeded at a similar challenge. Analyze how that person divided the project into small component pieces, and then acted on them. Memorize those actions.
  2. Repeat It – Second, sharpen your skills though repetition. Repetitio mater studiorum est –repetition is the mother of study, and Coyle sees it as invaluable to career advancement. Each time you practice an action you improve on it and on its timing.
  3. Learn To Feel It – Third, get to know and recognize your full potential, what UCLA psychologist Robert Bjork calls the sweet spot. This is the productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp. Here is how Bjork suggests you identify your potential: (1) pick a target, (2) reach for it, (3) evaluate the gap between the target and the reach, and (4) return to step one. It can be an uncomfortable exercise at first, but is one that will help you get to that next level quickly.

Achievement Gained

Reaching and achieving the next level in a career, or in a specific skill set, requires a lot of deep practice. To the sales professionals I mentor, I advise that while the effort may be uncomfortable, career advancement is best gained through following these three rules.

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