Tips to become a CEO
Have you ever wondered how successful people, well, succeed? How do they get from high school to CEO, from undergrad student to entrepreneur – without even appearing to break a sweat?
We put the question to John Huang, a UTS student who’s just wrapped up his time as ‘CEO for one month’ at the Adecco Group, and he gave us some tips for workplace success. Hint: it’s not as easy as these successful people make it look!
Say yes to opportunities.
This is my number one tip for success – that’s why it’s at the top of the list! You want to be the one who says ‘yes’ when other people say ‘no’. And while this doesn’t mean you should jump at everything that comes your way, you should learn to recognise the opportunities that you’d regret if you turned them down.
Saying yes to these opportunities even if you’re busy is critical for success. For instance, in my first year of university, I was actively involved in lots of societies and organisations, including a consulting club, the Volunteer Army, youth-run not-for-profit AIESEC, event societies, Amnesty Youth International and a Vietnamese Association – I’m not even Vietnamese! Yes, I was extremely busy, but I gained so many important skills for success. Unsurprisingly, one of those skills was making the most of my free time!
But it’s fine to say no.
There’s a fine line between success and burnout, and if you take on too much, you won’t be able to concentrate on tasks that truly matter to you.
It might seem tough to reject a potential opportunity, but you have to be honest with yourself – do you physically have the time and energy to take it on? There’s no point in signing up to something if you can’t give it 100 per cent.
My tip: if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in, let them know that you can’t do it now, and ask them to reach out again later down the line. Most people will appreciate the transparency!
Don’t worry so much.
As Bobby McFerrin once sung: don’t worry, be happy! There are only so many things you can control in your life, and it’s a waste of time and energy to stress about variables beyond your control. The only thing you can do is try your best and see what happens! For instance, it’s super unhelpful to mull over tiny things after a job interview – what can you do about them now?
Make a plan.
During my time as Adecco CEO, I noticed that every successful leader had some kind of plan for the future, ranging from grand 10-year plans to weekly goals and methods of juggling different tasks. As a student, you can follow their lead by planning your uni life, your professional career, or even your fitness regime. Just make sure you set reasonable goals and have a strategy on how to get there.
But make sure your plans are flexible! It’s impossible to predict what life will throw at us, and you have to learn to adapt on the run. So if you’re new to planning, I suggest you start small and set achievable goals, such as attending a networking event or reaching out to potential employers.
Get out of your comfort zone.
You’ve probably heard it before, but being uncomfortable is good for self-development. That’s why it’s crucial to be exposed to as many different experiences as possible, especially for us students so early in our professional.
For instance, at Adecco I had the opportunity to either feed penguins or scuba dive with sharks (it’s a pretty cool company!). Sure, it would have been safer to choose the penguins. But because I’ve never scuba-dived before, I jumped in with the sharks and into an uncomfortable situation, which gave me immense confidence in myself. After all, if I can survive that, I can do anything!
Create a network.
Becoming a CEO is a long journey, so it’s important to have a network to support you through difficult situations, and celebrate your (hopefully many) achievements with you.
However, networks go both ways, so make sure you give back what you gain. Otherwise, you risk severely diminishing the strength of your network. For example, at a networking event, don’t just immediately add everyone on LinkedIn and assume the work is done. You need to reach out and maintain that relationship whenever you can.
(For more on networking, check out this post on why networking can feel like The Bachelor, or this one about building your skills at uni).