Success is important to all of us. We may define it in different ways, but everyone wants to experience success in their lives. If you’re approaching the end of your education or contemplating career transitioning, the concept of success is something that is likely to be at the forefront of your mind.
It isn’t easy out there for graduates these days. On a seemingly daily basis, we are presented with news stories detailing how many graduates are facing unemployment or accepting low-level jobs. Some graduates are applying for hundreds of jobs without much luck, prompting the question of whether university, with its substantial price tag, is still a valid investment in this environment.
If you are judging success by skill, the UK is one of the most successful countries on earth. Per head, the UK produces more graduates than Austria, Norway, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. 47% of UK school leavers now enter higher education, up from 19% in 1989. Despite this, only a third of graduates are occupying graduate-level jobs. One in six are put in the position of having to accept jobs at call centres or coffee houses, as they can’t find a position to suit their particular needs.
With this rather frustrating level of competition, eager graduates are keenly looking for skills that will put them above and beyond their immediate rivals. People want to show interviewers and recruiters that they are a worthwhile investment. With this in mind, it is worth pausing to ask what all winners, high earners and entrepreneurs have in common. What can we learn from notable success stories?
Grit – the quality that unites all successful people
What is it that unites people like Beyonce, Barack Obama and Alan Sugar? They’re all unique and seemingly drastically different, yet these three have one characteristic that they share with all other winners. This characteristic is known in HR circles as ‘grit’. Grit has been described as the key to success in life. More than natural skill or aptitude, it is grit that can determine how far an individual will go in life and whether or not you will be led to greatness.
Grit can rather succinctly be defined as an unshakable drive. It is the ability to sustain your determination and passion long-term, regardless of any setbacks you might experience on your journey. People with grit are unstoppable; they thrive on a challenge and don’t accept failure as an end result. Rather, they have the ability to take problems in their stride by approaching them with open minds, often finding creative ways to solve them. This is why all leaders and winners have grit; they are the ones who refused to accept ‘no’ for an answer. Time and again, they have risen to the challenge and continued to surpass their goals.
Examples of entrepreneurs and high earners with grit
If business is your passion, you will know that no two entrepreneurs are the same. Some are reclusive, some are outgoing. Some have multiple degrees, some never even finished their schooling. One thing unites all these winners, though: their determination. They might be skilled or talented, but these qualities are futile without the drive to see them to fruition.
Of course, the path to success is rarely smooth. Leaders and entrepreneurs often experience serious setbacks, as we will see below.
We can take Walt Disney as an example. Disney is now a household name but he once had to recover from bankruptcy. In 1922, early on in his career, the struggling filmmaker started his first film company, Laugh-O-Gram. Not long later, Disney was financially cheated by a distributor and forced to declare bankruptcy in 1923. Thankfully, Disney didn’t allow himself to give up, as he debuted Mickey Mouse five years later.
We can also discuss Steve Jobs, who is a prime example of a gritty entrepreneur. Of course, Jobs founded Apple in 1976 before being fired from his own company in 1985. At 30, Jobs wasn’t willing to quit. Jobs is famous for his uplifting comments regarding his firing, stating that “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” Jobs was ultimately asked to return to Apple in 1996 and he rescued the company from bankruptcy with the release of the iMac, iTunes and the iPod, to name just a few.
Henry Ford is an historical example of how failure can turn into success, through grit. He founded two car companies that ultimately failed, before finally gaining success with Ford Motor Company. Ford now has an estimated net worth of $188 billion. If we can learn anything from these entrepreneurs, it is that failure isn’t final; real winners know how to persevere.
Why do hiring managers love employees with grit?
When companies and hiring managers look at candidates, they aren’t just deliberating over whether or not you’ll be suitable for the given role. They’re contemplating whether you’re a worthwhile investment for years to come. They want to know that you are someone with drive, who wants to grow and succeed. Managers love employees who strive to continuously improve, which is why they seek candidates with grit.
Gritty employees are valuable for their inability to be permanently brought down by setbacks. They are well-suited to deal with disappointment, while considering alternative solutions to current issues. Hiring managers appreciate that gritty people are optimistic. Rather than considering failure as an option, they utilise their creativity and ambition to carry out their goals and objectives. This is what can help companies thrive and is probably the reason that leading companies such as Google place an emphasis on hiring employees with this quality.
Can grit be learned?
Grit can certainly be taught. Parents can instil a determined work ethic in their children from an early age by putting value on the hard work itself, rather than the results. A good career consultant will help by acting as a mentor, providing advice and support during your graduate career progression.
Scientists believe that you can work on your grit with mindfulness. Learn to stamp out any negative and detrimental thoughts relating to failure. Try to accept it as par for the course, along with a certain degree of frustration. Teach yourself to take risks and to look at problems from different angles, rather than giving up altogether. Slowly but surely, you will coax your way into a new way of thinking and become an employee that companies will fight over.
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