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Three Simple Secrets to Success in Any Career

Office Hours |

The basic secret to success in any career? Intelligence, organization, and personality — but you didn’t hear it from us! Dr. Sharmila Dissanaike, associate professor of surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, spoke to Levo in Office Hours about how these three basic characteristics are the key to advancing in any field. Watch her talk.

Personal Path to Success

In medical school, Dissanaike thought she wanted to be a psychiatrist, but soon discovered that path wouldn’t give her the solutions-based approach she wanted. Over time she realized she wanted a career that balanced her desire to fix issues immediately and a focus on internal medicine. She also knew that she wanted to continue to see medicine from an intellectual perspective, so she continued to find ways to incorporate academia into her career. It was spending the day in the emergency room with a trauma victim that lead her to the emergency medicine path.

Now as a senior in her field, Dissanaike reviews the applications of many residency candidates and said the most successful residents shouldn’t have to be told every step of the process. They should be willing to go out of their comfort zone to achieve the best results. The best candidates are recommended for their leadership and teamwork.

Dissanaike’s philosophy is that “nothing you do is ever wasted” when you are doing things each day at the right time, place, and level of effort. People around you notice this underlying theme to what you do when you practice this philosophy and it allows you to organically advance.

Characteristics of Success

Success is built on three main characteristics that are actually quite rare to be seen together, Dissanaike said. The most impressive candidates for any job are smart, organized, and have a personable manner. Once you get into any field, these characteristics help you rise quickly in your career, she said.

Gen Y Mentorship: A Collaboration

Dissanaike also said that in her years as a mentor to many junior physicians that mentorship is “more about collaboration.” You should grow mentorships out of working collaborations, where both parties are already teaching each other.

Gen Y’ers at the start of their career should be self motivated to counter the stereotype of entitlement that often plagues this generation, Dissanaike said, you should always want to put in the effort. Finding the perfect job is about finding the job that will bring out your best skills and ability. Motivation is key to this process of discovery.

The ability to adapt to new structures, technologies, and people is also essential to any career, particularly in this generation, Dissanaike said. You should always be open to change, assuming that things will be different as you move forward in your career.

As a physician and surgeon, Dissanaike said she has learned to dissociate certain emotions from your everyday tasks. To do this, she said she tries to keep the broader perspective of her task in her thoughts. You can’t always be emotionally attached to the outcome, though you should put your best work into the process, she said.

Watch Levo Office Hours with Dr. Sharmila Dissanaike and learn how to set yourself apart in your career from the start!

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thank you for the advice! good article.


Good read.

Yes, two of those are major Soft Skills which lack severely in the workplace today.

Education is great. I would also like to add resilience. Being able to deal with high loads of stress, wading you way through them and then learning from it all is a HUGE key to great success at work.

Thanks again for the article.


I love the part about being willing to put in the extra effort and go out of one's comfort zone... so true!


I really like the idea Dissanaike puts out there that "mentorship is more about collaboration." I think that every interaction that people have together lends for an opportunity to learn.


Thanks for the OH recap! I thought she was super insightful, such great advice!


This is so true! Being sociable, organized, and well-educated in your line of work are the keys to a successful career. Few people have the "trifecta," so if you manage to grasp these three qualities - you're set!

Alexandra Macfarlane

Alex Macfarlane is an intern at Levo League. She has written for The Brown Daily Herald and several local sites in Massachusetts, and currently contributes to Levo League. Alex recently graduated from Brown University with a BA in History and currently lives in New York City, where she is learning how to get unlost on the subway and where to find the best $10 manicure. She loves nonfiction, peonies and wearing anything blue.