Bringing back a recurring feature of the blog, today and tomorrow will feature an interview with Dr. Steven Lurie who heads Lurie Executive Development and is the author of a recently published book "Handbook for Early Career Success".  You can find his full bio here.

What has fascinated me about Steve is his role as an organizational psychologist.  Over time, he asked hundreds of executives across dozens of organizations not only about the lessons learned from their careers, but specifically, what qualities they see as most critical to early career success. He boiled these down to 8 factors or “Keys to Early Career Success” which he describes in great detail in his book. (You can even view a limited preview of the book here.)

A quick look at these success factors confirms what some of us know from our own experience – Technical-analytical excellence is necessary to getting in the door. But it is the quality of the connections you make with others that leads to being invited to play those higher impact managerial and leadership roles to which many of us aspire.

It’s easy to be jaded about the practical value of these “soft skill” books. Not because they don’t have lots to say, but getting the practical value that employees are looking for is almost impossible given how busy everyone is.

But what’s notable about this book is that it provides a relationship building roadmap with specific rules and tools you can apply to your day-to-day interactions in the workplace and it is written is a style that makes it easily accessible.

The interview with Steve was so enjoyable that I’ve broken up the interview in two parts: 

So Steve, welcome to my blog and thanks for giving us some of your time.

My pleasure Dan, and thanks for having me.

Steve, when you think about the lessons learned and advice you heard across all of these interviews you conducted, was there a “headline message” to entry-level employees?

People who recognize that the path to success is very different in the workplace than in school or and adjust to that reality have a big advantage over people who have no clue about where they are and what is expected.

What’s the biggest difference between the path to success in school verses the workplace?

School teaches you to compete with your peers for the best grades and opportunities by demonstrating how much you know. In the workplace success is a function of how much value you add as part of a collaborative effort. Just being aware of these new rules automatically leads from a “me” to a “we” mindset by forcing you to understand your role, goals and assignments through the eyes of the other key stakeholders – especially your boss and the end users of your work product. It forces you to learn about the context of your assignments, how to leverage other people’s experience and skill-sets, how to get things done regardless of the barriers and deficiencies that are always found in the workplace. But the fact is that after so many years of school, the majority of young people enter the workplace expecting the old rulebook and success measures to apply.

So how do you get the message across?

The 8 Keys to Early Career Success breaks down the value added approach into very specific behaviors, skills and competencies. – Your readers can find it on my website.

The other leap many young people have in their transition is developing the ability to form strong and trusting connections across all personality styles – especially those they normally find hardest to relate to or even irritating. Nearly every role they play requires them to quickly tune-in to the communication style of the audience, “understand what’s important”, and then apply the best approach to engaging them and gaining their trust. As critical to success as it is, this being the most underdeveloped in entry-level professionals.


In tomorrow’s post, we’ll discuss some of the ways these approaches can be learned, and the related concepts of Connecting Styles.