Smart Like How: The Hidden Side of Career Success

| December 29, 2015


Smart Like How: The Hidden Side of Career Success

Born from the popular career blog (, Smart Like How is about mastering the hidden aspects of career success that help you earn peoples’ trust and create opportunities for yourself. The lessons in this book span communication effectiveness, to solving the problems found in every organization, to the basics of understanding how your job adds value to your organization with lots in between.

In an age where we increasingly fetishize certain “hard” skills like programming and data science, spending so much time on soft skills can feel passé. But career advancement is, was, and always will be a function of how much value you add to your organization and how well people understand your contributions. When you work for other people, trust plays a crucial role in their decisions about whether to allocate responsibility and authority to you. It’s not that you shouldn’t work hard or develop a broad skill set – rather, it’s that you shouldn’t do that then ignore the subtler things that can really cement your success.

That making the organization better and earning managements’ trust matter the most is important to understand for two reasons. First, this fact implies that your listed responsibilities are in fact the minimum criteria of your job, not a bona fide formula for success. Your job is making the company more successful – not because your contract says so, but because that’s what great employees do, period. If you’re not doing that, then you aren’t doing your job well whether it’s been explained to you this way or not. Second but equally important is the fact that earning your managers’ trust is part of your job, not just something that happens if you do your job. Moreover, you can consciously work and communicate in ways that help you earn peoples’ trust more quickly and reap the benefits. Convincing your managers that you “get it” is among the most beneficial things you can do for your career.

What most people misunderstand about the value of trust but the savvier people get intuitively is that trust is valuable on both sides of a relationship. Senior managers need employees they can trust further down the chain so that they can focus on business development and other Big Things without sweating the smaller things. A lack of people they trust is a major problem because worrying about too many things at once keeps them from doing their jobs. When you become a go-to person – one who can be counted on to get the job done without too much oversight – you’re not only helping yourself, you’re solving a problem for someone. This is why trusted problem solvers rise faster within an organization than their peers who haven’t earned that trust.


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