One of our young, ambitious readers recently wrote and expressed his interest in obtaining a job such as my job at Royal Caribbean (he is a frequent cruiser with us, something I certainly wasn’t when I was in college) or in top management at another large company. He wanted to know what suggestions I might have for him. Interestingly, he specifically noted he is involved in nonprofit work, which is near and dear to our hearts.
There certainly is more than one way to the top, judging by the backgrounds of our highest ranking officers. Richard Fain, our Chairman, was a financial professional by background. My training was in law. Michael Bayley, President & CEO of our sister brand Celebrity Cruises, worked his way up from Assistant Purser on Nordic Prince beginning in the early 1980’s. I should note that all three of the senior officers on my Royal Caribbean International team – Lisa Bauer, Vicki Freed and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo – have strong backgrounds in Sales.
Business articles on management cite cyclical trends influencing whether finance, legal, marketing or human resource backgrounds are in the ascendancy to the top jobs. This may be relevant to large scale data across industries but it is unlikely to determine the career success of any given individual.
My observations over nearly 25 years at Royal Caribbean tell me that success emanates primarily from straightforward elements of daily life. Someone who has presence that gets people’s attention, judgment that appears sound, a work ethic that stands out and an ability to digest considerable information and figure out the key point(s) is going to be noticed by senior management. The ability to write well is important too.
Someone who forms work relationships because they want to, not during a crisis when they have to, is going to receive more assistance from colleagues than will others. Everybody is stressed doing business in the 21st century. Everyone has more on their plate than they can manage in the normal work hours. So by necessity each colleague is rationing the assistance they can provide. So who are they going to assist? Some of the rations will be granted to the people they want to assist, i.e., the ones with whom they have positive relationships. None of this is rocket science.
It is not possible to say someone who tries hard to do these things will become a senior officer of Royal Caribbean or any other large company. Plus there are many more variables than I could mention here. But doing these things well will increase the odds of success. So will seizing opportunities when they arise. These opportunities come with risks attached but often risks worth taking.
Many people have come to me over the years with the proverbial alarm clock going off in their heads that tells them now is the time for them to be promoted and wondering why it isn’t obvious to everyone at the company that the time has come. My advice to them on career advancement has been consistent over the last two decades: You need to be excellent, you need to patient and you need to be lucky. And the first two will often produce the third.
Good luck, young man.