EF Education First Worldwide Creative Officer Joel Hladecek is responsible for overseeing EF’s creative, design, and experience globally. Spanning 500 offices in 50 different countries, he works with the creative teams in each office to ensure that the key consumer touchpoints feel consistent across all of EF. An eight-year vet at EF, Joel has learned a thing or two about careers along the way.
Recently, Joel shared his career advice with the staff at EF’s North American headquarters in Boston. Hosted as an EF BRICKS session—staff gatherings that provide personal development and professional learning opportunities—Joel shared five pieces of advice for building a successful career.
1. Everything in your career depends on other people
“How do you get that dream role, the one you really truly want?” Joel prompted. To start, you should forget hunting for job listings and only applying with a resume. “A piece of paper can’t defend you, it can’t show how smart and motivated you are, only you can do that.” he argued.
Joel went on to say that it all comes down to your relationships. He suggested finding the people in your current office who do what you want to do—and then find the leaders who oversee those teams.
“Research your top five companies or departments and figure out who the people are who lead those teams. Read what they write, watch their videos, learn who they are.” Joel continued, “Reach out to them individually and ask to learn about them, and ask for advice over coffee—you’ll get some great advice from them. The point is not about a particular role or job, it’s about the relationships, opening doors. You’ll learn these relationships are way more important than any job listing.”
2. Have confidence to turn “no” into a “yes”
“When you know you can turn a no into a yes, it gives you a sense of calm confidence,” explained Joel. “That calm confidence is really important because you have to be creative, you have to be a problem solver. When you hear a no, often, emotionally you shut down. Knowing that you can maybe still turn this around is hopeful, it should give you confidence. It’s something worth trying.”
3. Be patient and do great work
Joel swears that the combination of these two are “magical” and will solve the problems you encounter in a constructive and beautiful way. How? “Really great work stands out like a bright shining beacon in the corporate world,” he said. “Great work stands in contrast to mediocre work, and that contrast causes the corporate machine around you to ask questions and facilitate changes. When you do great work, you create a heat trail, and that’s how you get sniffed out.”
He emphasized that this is where patience comes in: you have to do great work over and over again to get noticed and make a difference. “Patience is an incredibly difficult thing to wrap our heads around,” Joel explained. “You can look at this issue and realize it’s a problem, but companies are slow, people are faster. The company needs to see the problem, it has to build urgency, it takes time. That’s why patience is so important.”
4. To get a promotion, start doing the job you want
If there was one thing Joel was clear on, it’s that you have to put in the work to get the promotion you want. “You have to do the job to some extent, to whatever scale you can,” said Joel. “The secret to getting promoted is by doing the job you want to be promoted in to. No one’s going to complain if you help the process, if you do a little more than the definition of your job, if you push yourself up.”
Joel said it’s important to show initiative and to prove yourself. “You’ll never get that job unless you can illustrate an aptitude for those larger responsibilities,” he advised. “Nobody ever gets a job just because they want it.”
5. You’ll find success the moment you challenge yourself
“Everyone has a different idea of what success really means,” said Joel. “We often miss the arrival of success because we didn’t expect it to look that way. Life has a confounding way of ensuring that you won’t know how or when it’s going to happen.”
Joel went on to describe that actual success includes the downs as well as the ups—and our ideas of money, promotions, and titles are the “side effects,” the consequences of something else. Joel continued, “These things only come to us after we’ve demonstrated new skills and experience, they come to us as a desperate reaction to an overwhelming challenge, when you discover you can do something a little better than you could do before. Success, I now realize, is the moment we challenge ourselves.”