Personal Finance

4 key things you should do to grow your career, according to former Yum Brands CEO David Novak

By August 7, 2019 No Comments

It’s not necessarily easy to move up in the workplace.

At the same time, wading through all the advice on how to do it can be just as daunting.

However, according to former Yum Brands CEO David Novak, there are four key things you need to do to be successful. And the more success you achieve at work, the more you can invest in your financial future.

Be a lifelong learner and I guarantee you, you’re going to be successful.

David Novak

former Yum Brands CEO

Novak should know. He rose from humble beginnings and ultimately landed in the C-suite.

“When I was growing up, I lived in 23 states, and the biggest house that I lived in was eight feet wide by 46-foot-long,” said Novak, now the founder and CEO of oGoLead, a digital leadership development platform.

He retired as CEO of Yum Brands, which he co-founded, in 2015 and as executive chairman in 2016. In 2015, he made headlines for topping the list of Fortune 500 CEOs with the largest retirement nest eggs. It was reported to be worth $234 million at the time.

During Novak’s tenure, the company, which includes KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, doubled in size to 41,000 restaurants. Prior to that he was president at both KFC and Pizza Hut and held senior management positions at Pepsi.

Former Yum Brands CEO David Novak

Source: Yum! Brands

“I never had any idea that I’d end up becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” said Novak, also a CNBC contributor.

“I worked hard,” he added. “I tried to learn everything that I could that could help me be better. I tried to impact the entire organization.

“And guess what? I achieved things that I never thought would be possible.”

He believes you can do the same. Here is Novak’s advice.

Be an avid learner

The single biggest thing you can do to grow your career is to be a “know-how junkie.” That means reading everything you can and figuring out the people you can learn from, Novak explained.

“You want to be someone who wants to learn everything you can about your trade, about what really makes your business tick,” he said.

It also doesn’t stop early in your career. Instead, you need to keep at it.

“Be a lifelong learner and I guarantee you, you’re going to be successful,” Novak said.

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Some of the most famous business leaders have said they are constantly learning.

“Without lifetime learning, you people are not going to do very well,” Charlie Munger, billionaire and long-time business partner of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, said in a 2007 commencement address. “You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know.

“If you take Berkshire Hathaway, which is certainly one of the best regarded corporations in the world and may have the best long-term investment record in the entire history of civilization, the skill that got Berkshire through one decade would not have sufficed to get it through the next decade with the achievements made,” he added.

“Without Warren Buffett being a learning machine, a continuous learning machine, the record would have been absolutely impossible.”

Act like you own the place

When working for a business, think what would an owner do and act accordingly.

By doing that, you look beyond just your job, Novak said.

“Too many people just look at their job and say, ‘If I do my job well, people are gonna see how great I am’,” he said.

“Where you really separate yourself is when you do your job and then you think like the owner, act like the owner, and contribute on the basis of helping the entire enterprise grow.”

It’s something that managers look for. In fact, there are countless articles devoted to the topic of how to motivate your employees to do just that.

Love what you do

It may be a cliché, but doing what you love can actually help you climb the ladder.

“When you love what you do, you can’t get enough of it,” explained Novak.

David Novak presents YUM! Recognition award to Yuan Yuan Chen, Director of Finance -Yum! China Division

“You can’t wait to go to work, you can’t wait to learn more,” he added. “And guess what? You grow. I’ve never seen anybody do well at something that they weren’t good at or that they didn’t like.”

It’s something Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates addressed in 2005 on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

“Like my friend Warren Buffett, I feel particularly lucky to do something every day that I love to do. He calls it ‘tap-dancing to work,'” said Gates, who was the tech giant’s chief software architect at the time. He assumed the role after stepping down as chief executive in 2000 and ultimately left his daily job at Microsoft in 2008.

According to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Index, released in April, most Americans are pretty happy with their jobs. The survey found 85% of respondents are either somewhat or very satisfied with their work.

Stay true to yourself

Your work life is not always going to be easy. You’ll face a lot of tough situations throughout your careers.

However, no matter how hard it gets, stay true to yourself, Novak said.

“People see phonies,” he said. “Stay true to what makes you, you, as you do it.

“And when you do, people will know you’re the real deal.”

Or, as Oprah Winfrey once said, “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.”

CHECK OUT: 3 mental shifts that can help you save money for a home via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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