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Neil Howe, the Authority Architect, helped us out this month in divulging more on his perspective of “luck” in the workplace. Check out his advice below, and be sure to listen to his podcast featuring Shelly, as well as his other work on Business Innovators Radio!

Do you think luck plays a role in the workplace?

I don’t think there’s any such thing as luck. I believe that you create your own luck through working hard, but not just working hard, working smart as well. There are a lot of hardworking people, right? They work hard all their lives but don’t get that “lucky break,” as some might call it. You have to work smart and hard in order to get “lucky.” Many people work hard at their jobs, but they’re not necessarily going to get recognized. And if you wait and hope, you will be waiting for a long time! The fact is, the Pareto Principal rings true in every industry. 20% of the people make 80% of the money and the other 80% fight over the remaining 20%. The real question is, what are those “lucky” 20% doing to make 80% of the money?

In almost every instance it comes down to positioning yourself as an authority and expert. You want to be seen as a credible problem solver within your industry. Once you have that positioning, which is done largely through media, you attract a higher caliber client who is willing to pay a higher price to work with you. The same is true if you are looking for a raise or a career change. Employers will look at your perceived value and pay you or hire you accordingly. When you position yourself correctly and get third-party recognition from authority media for the problems you solve, you increase that perceived value and become a highly valued asset for your company or an attractive target for another company.

In order to “Get Lucky”, you one have to show that you are the best candidate to answer these 2 questions that are in the minds of your prospects or your employer 1) Does this person understand my problem and 2) Is this person qualified to solve my problem? If you can show that you are the best option to address these 2 questions and are willing and able to do it, then you will have a very lucky career!

So, here are a few ways you can do that.

  1. Borrowing from sites that already have authority and trust. I call these Trust Triggers and people look for them as soon as they land on your website or when researching you online before a job interview. Instantly recognizable logos like those of news stations, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox News give you instant credibility if you can get coverage on them.
  2. Another way to get instant credibility is to tie in with influencers or celebrities in your niche. For example, if you are a bankruptcy attorney you may put out a press release saying something like, “Attorney [Name] agrees with financial expert Dave Ramsey that the best way to get out of debt is to cut up the credit cards.” This puts you in the same boat as Dave Ramsey and you can borrow his authority.
  3. You can also highlight testimonials showing case studies of the kind of work and success that you have done before. The most important thing is they have to be shared. It is fine to put testimonials on your website, but they are much more beneficial as part of a social media campaign. Bottom line – if you don’t share it, you’re not going to get the recognition that you deserve.
Do you think it is easy to rely on luck in certain industries?

No. I don’t believe luck is part of the equation at all.

There are certain circumstances where you might find that people are better suited to a position and things come easily to them. But, that is not luck. That is more a physical or cognitive blessing. In most circumstances, it comes down to the work you put in and the positioning you choose. Again, most industries only really care about what problems you’re able to solve for your customers, clients or patients and how good you are at it. Going back to those two questions again in the mind of your prospects or employer… does this person understand my problem? Is this person qualified to solve my problem? If you can prove those two things, luck is no longer an issue.

I want to be clear here. I am not talking about calling yourself an expert or a guru. It is not about that at all. I position my clients as the educator and advocate for the success of their customers and that is a position most people are very comfortable being in. Look at Dave Ramsey again. You never see him declaring he is the expert or guru. But, that celebrity authority has been given to him through third-party credible media because he has positioned himself through books, TV appearances, Radio shows, and courses to help people solve a major problem.

What advice would you have for someone feeling out of luck?

You generate your own luck based on the habits and activities you choose. So if you’re feeling out of luck, it probably means that you aren’t taking the right actions. Lucky people tend to do a lot of the right things over and over again. So if you’re not doing the right things over and over again, you are very unlikely to be experiencing any luck.

People say that hard work is going to make you succeed. Well, hard work is definitely one part of the equation, but you might be working hard at the wrong thing and never get the recognition that you deserve. You have to be smart and work hard and market your talents and achievements in order to get the recognition that is going to draw business to you and invite collaboration with others. Those are the kinds of things that are going to get you ahead.

What is a favorite quote about luck/hard work?

“Luck is not sustainable. Skill is.”

If you want to have success, develop one skill that solves a very important problem and become known for it. I call this microspecialization, which means becoming the master at that skill. We don’t want to be the jack of all trades and the master of none. We want to be the master of ONE skill.

Think of the medical field. The most common position is a general practitioner. They know a little about a lot of things, but they are not a specialist. If there is a problem, they refer you to a specialist. The specialist is going to command more money because of his specialized knowledge and problem-solving ability.

After the specialist, we have the authority. Maybe it is the authority in your city, maybe the state, or even the country. If the specialist at the hospital can’t solve the problem, they refer to the authority. The authority, in turn, gets paid more than the specialist and he is in even greater demand because he is the authority and other doctors keep referring him business.

So, the goal is to become the authority in any career path you choose. If you work hard and perfect your microspecialization, you can become the authority and get paid according to the value that you bring in helping solve a problem. The bigger the problem, the bigger the reward.

It is the “lucky” few who choose this path that makes up the 20% who make 80% of the money.

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