In my early 20s, I really believed that in order to succeed all you need is work really hard. You gotta be gritty to succeed. You gotta put in long hours to be successful. You gotta be very good at technical things and establish yourself as a thought leader in particular domain. I don't think all of these assumptions are necessary wrong - they are necessary building blocks in your 20s. But if you still doing that in your 30s in this mindset, you are doing everything wrong.
Things to focus in your 30s:
Improve your communication skills:
It covers writing, speaking, and also non-verbal communications. For recently turned 30, in the last few years, I find this extremely annoying. I always thought to myself, "this is bullshit - he knew I didn't meant it this way - he is twisting my words". But as you move up in the career ladder, being able to communicate well is extremely important. This brings up to my next point.
Dress the part:
I am not saying that wear a suit all the time. In some case, that might actually be a bad idea. In order to do your job well, you really need to dress the part. Meeting with clients at outdoor (hunting season), ditch the suits. Doing a town hall meeting with local folks for your social organization - ditch the suit; put on a polo shirt with jeans or casual dress shirt (roll up your sleeve) with a khaki pant. If it were a high-end charity event, get a tux. It took me awhile to accept this. I always thought that "this is fucking stupid; why can't I wear whatever the fuck I want - I have my fucking right." Dressing the part is also an important way of communication.
Be a connector:
You have already built up your resume as a technical expert in your 20s. Your 30s is all about putting it all together. My favorite analogy is learning how to use different weapons (i.e. sword, gun, hand to hand combat, explosive) in your 20s. But when you get to 30s, it is more about thinking in term of how to use the right combinations of right weapons to get things done. Is this a undercover operation (corporate espionage)? Is this a boardroom warfare? Is this a hostile takeover (time to dig dirt against your target)? Net net, what I am saying is that your jobs in your 30s is learning how to best package yourself learning how to utilize all of your skill sets in a perfect way. Another analogy is like learning how to fight. You might have picked taekwondo, judo, karate, BJJ, muay-thai in your early 20s. But when you get to your 30s, it is all about winning the fight. No one give a shit if you were a blackbelt in taekwondo, you are in the fucking UFC. Your job is to knock your opponent out no matter how he comes at you.
cI have seen a lot of people who are really good analysts and associates but really terrible vps and mds. The problem is that they are still thinking like an associate. They just want to become a better version of associate - not knowing that you have to learn a whole new skill sets to move up. When you move up, you spend more time managing clients and political bickering. This is just a part of the process. Maybe a deal can be struck over a napkin scratch without going through thousand of pitches. Maybe a deal falls through but this allows you to work on your next deal. You also need to learn how to train your generals (vps) to work for you willingly in your best interest. And that has nothing to do with being an excel monkey.
Giving back to community:
Some may think that this is all pro-bono bullshit but being an important member of your community is extremely important for your success at work. If people see you taking a leadership position in your community, you will attract the right person (i.e. clients, future employees, investors, sponsors). You will be the go-to person; with that political capital, you build up your network. Your powerful network bring you news (a lot of nonpublic info that you can get a leg up against your competition) - be in deal sourcing, introducing the right partners and hiring the top executive for your firm.
Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this comment from 8/25/15 was originally posted in the thread Hard work and sacrifice will get you only so far and we thought it deserved its own spot on the frontpage