Number one predictor of success

What’s the Number One Predictor of Professional Success?

Some say it’s IQ. Others say academic credentials. And still others believe it’s all about who you know. But here’s the real answer.
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The temptation to spin the facts has always been around. However, in today’s age, there are more easier ways to conduct surveys and collect and compile disparate data than ever before. Which means you can make the “facts” support whatever you want. 

I’ve found that the purest information comes from asking people to share their story of success, and not what traits they developed or already possessed that contributed to their success. If you’re observant, those traits will reveal themselves as their story unfolds. And, anyway, people are not the best at analyzing themselves.  

The successful people I know are extremely hard-working, always exploring new opportunities, sticking to their guns, and expanding their network. I would add as a sidenote here that becoming successful and enjoying success are two very different things. The happiest AND most successful people I know are grateful.  

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But if you’re searching for answers or guidance online, you might end up confused and discouraged.  

What the experts say 

A simple Google search on “Predictors of professional success” will bring up a vast array of conflicting answers and studies. Some claim the number one predictor of success is IQ, like this post from CNBC. The study the author references was conducted at Vanderbilt University in 2012.

Predictors of Success

Of course, you don’t have to scroll very far before someone else completely disagrees, like HubSpot does. Notice the description claims that intelligence is NOT one of the biggest predictors.

Number one trait of success

Scroll a bit more and you run into another 8 traits that are “scientifically proven” to predict career success. This time it’s from Forbes. IQ is absent from the list. The first trait mentioned is delayed gratification, which is supported by a 1972 psychological study involving kids and marshmallows.

Scientifically proven traits of successful people

Scroll a bit further, and you get this article being promoted on LinkedIn, which emphasizes something other than all the articles above. The author uses sociology professor Ron Burt, but only links to his profile and no studies.

Why are there so many conflicting opinions and studies? Follow the money and the answer becomes clear.  

The 8 traits in Forbes’ list are mainly personality traits. At the end of their blog are “free” personality tests you can take to see how successful you may be one day. I say “free” because you must give your email to take the test. Afterwards you can be sure to be bombarded with sales messages.  

The “number one predictor of career success” according to LinkedIn is your network. And how can you build your network? LinkedIn lists three things you can do today. At the top of the list is joining LinkedIn. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

HubSpot also offers their own branded personality quiz you can take at the end of reading their article.  

Okay, so then what IS the number one predictor of success?  

A few years ago, I was personally training a client who was a partner at a financial firm. He always wore a shiny watch, dressed nicely and took his family on ski trips every year.  

During one of our 6:15 AM training sessions I asked him which skills helped him progress in his career the most. He was kind enough to tell me about his story and how communication, above all else, was key to his success.  

Later I asked him advice on interviewing for a job I wanted. He said to do two things: make sure I ask questions (you’re interviewing the company as well to see if it’s a good fit) and tell a story. The story would be around some kind of success in my previous work. Then he told me about SPAR.  

  • Situation  
  • Problem  
  • Answer  
  • Result  

The story you tell in an interview should have this kind of structure. After some practice, I used his exact story structure and ended up getting the job offer.  

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SPAR is an easy model to follow… heck I just did in the little anecdote above. But the lesson is that, in my experience, communication is paramount to success. Of course, perseverance, intelligence, knowing the right people, a strong work ethic and having a good attitude are big factors.  

But above all, learning how to speak clearly and effectively is critical. All the knowledge of “experts” becomes irrelevant if they can’t share their expertise in a way others can easily understand. It’s difficult for skilled trade professionals to move up in their career if they can’t replicate themselves and manage other people.  

If you can’t talk clearly and with confidence, the person listening or reading will first be confused, then irritated, and finally leave. My advice is to study conversation. Avoid speaking in a confusing, unbelievable, and boring way.  

Communication is the number one predictor of success

Practicing on the show floor

This lesson has very practical uses when it comes to trade show booth staff. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your communication skills at trade shows, start with one of our resources below for further reading.  

The Trade Group also offers booth staff training courses. If you’re interested in giving your staff the skills they need to stand out on the show floor, contact us below!  

The Trade Group is a full-service trade show and event marketing company. We will work with you to create an exhibit or an event that brings in leads and helps you achieve your business goals. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585. 

Cameron Wilkinson is a writer and editor in Dallas, TX. His writing for the events industry pairs with his interests in sales and marketing. He also holds a B.A. in English Literature form the University of North Texas.

Photo Credit: Pexels

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