Having been raised on a farm in southern Minnesota, I was taught from an early age that, to be successful in life, I had to work hard, always do my best no matter the task, and be honest when dealing with others. So it stood to reason that if I followed those same principles at work, I believed, I would be successful no matter the career path I chose.
While I still believe in the intrinsic value of those attributes, and try to follow them daily, I’ve since come to realize that there were a few more key ingredients in my personal recipe for career success.
The first is opportunity. Experience has shown me that you must actively seek opportunities to make an impact in an organization if you want to advance your career. Those opportunities may not always be obvious, or even glamorous, and may involve some risk, but every opportunity should be weighed against your long-term career goals. For example, you must be willing to change roles within a company, or even change companies, if the business objectives no longer match your long-term goals. How you choose to handle each opportunity will ultimately define how successful you are along your own career path.
The second ingredient is mentoring. Look for ways to be actively mentored through relationships with your peers, as well as passing on lessons learned by mentoring others. I have been part of a women’s peer networking group for over 12 years now, and have benefited in many ways. I’ve evaluated my different career choices. I’ve developed life-long friends with many women, and helped numerous others during my career. Mentoring others is the best way I know to follow a pay-it-forward mentality so that others can learn from my thoughts and experiences gained over the life of my career.
The third and final ingredient for career success is passion. I truly believe you must find your passion in life and make that part of your career. My diverse background includes everything from positions as a computer programmer, to a marketing manager in packaged foods, to a global marketing leader, to a general manager for a vehicle-care business. At first glance, not a traditional career ladder. However, they all have one thing in common—these opportunities allowed me to play to my strengths and passion. In each role, I was able to evaluate complex business challenges, focus on developing long-term business strategies, and motivate a talented and diverse team to help make the business successful.