Business Acumen and Career Success

I recently launched a career advice membership site called My Corporate Climb. It is dedicated to helping people create career success while working for a large – or medium or small – company. The career advice inside the site is also helpful for people who work in non profit and government organizations.

The site covers seven keys to corporate career success:

  1. Clarify the purpose and direction for your corporate career success.
  2. Commit to taking personal responsibility for creating your corporate career success.
  3. Build unshakeable self confidence.
  4. Become a high performer.
  5. Create positive personal impact.
  6. Become a dynamic communicator.
  7. Build solid, lasting mutually beneficial relationships.

In this post, I want to concentrate on high performance – the heart of the corporate career success model. While good performance is not enough to ensure your corporate career success, it is a necessary component. I go so far as to say that it is the price of admission to the career success sweepstakes.

If you want to become an outstanding performer, you have to develop your business acumen. Here are five tips for becoming a better business person – and a corporate career success.

  1. Be a well-informed business person. Read technical journals and business publications, watch the news. Become known as someone who is “in the know”.
  2. Develop the technical skills you need to your job well. This is a lifelong endeavor. Technology changes rapidly, make sure you keep up with it.
  3. Keep your technical skills up to date. Take classes, on line, at a local adult education center, a community college, anyplace that helps you keep your skills sharp.
  4. Stay up to date on what’s happening in your industry. Read industry publications. Know the issues facing your company’s industry.
  5. Learn and understand the competitive environment of your organization. Learn your company’s competitors, their products, their strengths and weaknesses.

When I work with senior executives, one of the most frequent complaints I hear is that many people in their organizations don’t understand their business well enough. Many of my career success coach contracts involve helping high potential people develop their business acumen.

As you move along in your career, the technical skills you used early on become less relevant. Yes, you have to stay up on what’s happening in your field, but you will be using technical skills less and less as you go up the career success ladder.

For example, your highly developed sales skills may get you promoted to a sales management position. Or your highly developed engineering skills may get you promoted to a manufacturing management position. Or your highly developed IT skills may get you promoted to an IT management position. But once you get to any of these leadership positions, your technical skills become less and less important. Your leadership and strategic skills are what will help you to continue to climb the corporate career success ladder.

“He or she isn’t strategic enough” is one of the biggest negatives I hear when senior leaders are discussing candidates for a promotion. What do they mean by that? They mean the person under consideration may be an outstanding individual contributor or first line leader. But they lack the ability to understand the bigger picture – the competitive environment of the business. They are two focused on the day to day work. They don’t demonstrate the ability to “see around corners” as one of my C level executive clients used to say.

How do you see around corners? You stay up on what’s happening in your company, your industry and business in general. You demonstrate your ability to see around corners by pointing out opportunities and potential problems – and coming up with ideas for taking advantage of the opportunities and dealing with potential problems.

I know this may not seem fair. You do a good job in your current job, and not only do you not get rewarded, you get penalized for not seeing around corners. But that’s life in a corporate world. If you want to reach the corporate career success you deserve, you need to demonstrate that you are not only a good performer in your present position, but that you are likely to be a good performer in a more senior position. You can do this — and build your corporate career success —  by sharpening your business acumen, thinking about your company’s competitive environment and advancing your ideas with senior leaders in your company.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense. Good performance is a prerequisite for corporate career success. But it is not enough to guarantee the career success you want and deserve. It is merely the first step. If you want to create corporate career success you need to develop your business acumen. You do this by becoming well informed – about your company, your industry and business. You do this by thinking about your company — its opportunities and potential problems – and coming up with creative ideas to address them. If you want to achieve true corporate career success you have to establish yourself as a competent business person, not merely a skilled technician.

That’s my career advice on the importance of developing your business acumen. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career success book Success Tweets Explained. It’s a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened my new membership site on September 1. It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations. To celebrate the grand opening, I’m giving away a new career advice book I’ve written called I Want YOU…To Succeed in Your Corporate Climb. You can find out about the membership site and get the career advice in I Want YOU… for free by going to

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