Work is a wolf: How to build a successful career

Five secrets of successful career development from Olena Bilan, chief economist of the investment company Dragon Capital.

What is more important: education or practical skills? In the Ukrainian reality, that question sounds indecorous. At any rate, a higher education diploma is an important item in a job seeker’s CV in our country; sometimes it is also an element of a successful career. However, one way or another, recently more and more employers have been paying attention not only to candidates’ education but also to their practical skills.

Back in May, in the course of the Ukraine Economy Week, representatives of the Government, the scientific community, and international companies not only discussed Ukraine’s financial and economic problems but also shared their experience in building a successful career. In one of the discussions, Olena Bilan, chief economist of the investment company Dragon Capital, shared her secrets of how to stand out from the crowd, why you have to be passionate about your work, and why it is essential to develop your knowledge and skills. 

My work is specific in that I stay at the juncture between the private sector in its pure form and analytics. These spheres require not only knowledge of the basics of business but also high quality economic education. Without the latter, there won’t be a place for you in that sphere.

There are, however, several factors without which you are unlikely to build a successful career. There’s just a few of them; but they are very important for finding your place in the sun.

So, these are the five factors needed to build a successful career: 

Confidence that you are in your proper place. It is very important to understand what you want to be doing. Does it sound banal? You may think whatever you like. But you are unlikely to reach career heights working just anywhere. It is important to understand and accept what you are more inclined to: analysis, communication, management, creativity, or gardening. Listen to your inner voice; it will surely tell you whether or not you are in your proper place. And certainly, be passionate about your work. All my acquaintances that are successful in their work actually like what they are doing. Of course there may be certain nuances and one always has to sacrifice something. Diligence and talent are not enough for a successful career. Often people have to devote their whole life to it.

Knowledge and skills. Dragon Capital’s practice includes recruiting interns for the summer vacation period. In my particular sphere of work, knowledge and skills are actually valued the most. We hardly ever pay any attention to a candidate’s education, except especially if he or she is a Western university graduate. Usually, such people are a notch higher than candidates holding Ukrainian higher education degrees, . On the whole, it’s an entirely different type of people: they have different approaches to work and life. Let alone skills. Still,Therefore, when we are selecting future interns, we focus mostly on what they are like and how they can be transformed afterwards.

Talking more specifically, highly important is the would-be employee’s proactivity. Resolute actions and fulfillment of non-trivial impossible tasks are what is expected from you. Therefore, Ddon’t just keep on sitting and waiting for tasks or instructions. Keep showing your interest and be in the foreground all of the time. Proactive people are proactive in everything: in work and in life and in self-development. Don’t be afraid to learn new things; take an interest in all things happening in the world, keep reading – and don’t forget to implement all the appropriate innovations in your life and work.

Ability to prioritize sort out priorities. The world around us is so changeable! Be ready for a  anything change. One way or another, any job will give you new workloads and stressful situations. To minimize unpleasant moments, try to arrange your tasks according to priorities and organize your activities in advance. For example think about ways to organize work with electronic correspondence. Believe me, it’s not an easy task. In the first few years, it won’t be a problem. But later you will simply be flooded with letters – and sorting them out is bound to become a big problem for you.

Critical thinking: a new must have.

Unfortunately, nowadays few people in Ukraine pay attention to developing critical thinking. Yet some employers have already put a course in critical thinking on the list of requirements for candidates. For example, iIn the United States it is a basic school course. Practice shows that it makes sense to start teaching critical thinking in the 6th or 7th school year. In that case it provides the right prerequisites. Unfortunately, it’s the opposite situation in the Ukrainian education system. Very often we hear from teachers, “Do whatever you are told without asking too many questions!” From childhood we are taught to follow the herd instinct without reasoning things out. More often than not we are unable to understand and accept the fact that there are other possible solutions to the problem. Even more often, however, we are simply afraid to counter the events. As we grow older, we have to remodel ourselves and learn not to go with the stream.

Contacts. In our time, they are very important. Try to make new acquaintances during your years as a student. And certainly try to maintain them. Maybe in the future some or other contact will help you resolve a crucial question or problem. Besides, nowadays information is expanding progressively. Often it is very hard to understand what is true and what is false. Therefore, it is always good of utmost importance to have reliable and proven sources of information, as well as . It is even better to have experts in different some or other spheres.

Apart from all of the above, internship is highly important – from the viewpoint of working experience as well as in order to make your CV “weightier.” Talking about development, well, after being employed or taking up business you will go on studying anyway. There’s no way to avoid it. Unfortunately, our education fails to provide the knowledge needed at the workplace. New employees have to be taught additionally. Be ready to continue studying during your first couple of years at work. 

To be competitive on the labor market, it’s not enough for you to have attained higher education. Your prevailing traits must be proactivity, creativeness and critical thinking. If you want to achieve success, don’t say, “I couldn’t find an answer” or “Such information cannot be found in the Internet.” Once you have been given a task, you must perform it. If you cannot cope with it immediately, don’t give up,, try other approaches. To that end, try to answer the question, “Why can’t I do it?” Try to think critically and creatively. You will see that soon the solution will come and everything will work out fine for you.

Main photo: Kyiv School of Economics

Tetiana Pavlushenko

Self-Education column editor,


Leave a Reply