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Golden Guide Career Advice: Never Stop Striving

Lydia Lazar

woman and man seated in front of computer looking at monitor

Golden Tip No. 20: It’s Who You Know and What You Know

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

We all know the cliché that getting ahead in life is about who you know.  While the Golden Guide emphasizes networking to get ahead in your career, the truth is that building a great career is not only about who you know, it’s also about what you know. All the networking in the world won’t help you if you don’t develop some real expertise and a capacity to make a contribution to the work of others.

The world is always changing, and to be successful you will also have to grow with it. The competitive nature of the professional world can be exhausting and daunting, and it can require near-constant striving for improvement, but this is simply a real world lesson that everyone has to accept.

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One key strategy for improving competitiveness is to pursue new skills and credentials. Consider volunteering for projects and other opportunities at work where you can learn new skills. Outside of work, you may decide to seek a graduate degree (be sure to consider part-time evening programs) or earn a certificate or badge from an online course. There are many new online degrees, as well as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other ways to gain skills and knowledge.

The explosive spread of digital technology throughout society means that nearly all professional work opportunities in the next few decades will require some familiarity with data analytics. Even if you are not planning to be a data analyst, you need to know something about that job function and some of its specialized vocabulary.

It can be hard to avoid stories about how robots are going to make some jobs obsolete, but humans will always be needed to make sure that the real-world application of algorithmic conclusions make sense for the business. Our world will increasingly need people who can explain the results of AI analysis to the managers and leaders in our enterprises. You can ensure that you will be considered for more challenging roles if you:

  • Continually enhance your own interpersonal communication skills
  • Strengthen your ability to learn by frequently tackling new subjects
  • Focus at least a portion of your personal learning on the intersection of data analytics and operations analysis


Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.