I’ve taken a less traditional path than some to building my career. In fact, I’ve had three careers to date – in consumer goods, market research, and now consulting. Some people may think it’s a big leap to go from working at a startup to a well-established business like Deloitte. But it’s all part of a continuum of invention and reinvention. And one constant through it all has been my network of colleagues and mentors.

I’m a big advocate of career development, whether it’s through formal training or through conversations with the people in your network. In fact, it was just such a conversation that brought me to consulting. I had not considered it as a career path, but when I had lunch with a former colleague one day, he ticked off a list of experiences and attributes I had that he felt would be a good fit with a consulting career. And Deloitte agreed.

Different perspectives are key. Diversity of thought and experience has helped me make my career choices, and it helps businesses in much the same way. That’s why I joined friends and colleagues in starting the Network of Executive Women (NEW) 10 years ago. Our goal was to enhance opportunities for women and people of color in retail and consumer products industries. By expanding our perspective, welcoming men and a greater variety of companies into our membership, we built what was intended to be a local initiative into a national network.

Network-building doesn’t have to take place on an industry-wide scale. We created a fellows program within Deloitte’s Retail & Distribution practice that brings together people with different backgrounds from each of Deloitte’s business areas. As the fellows step out of their comfort zones, they form bonds that help them reach out across business areas to tap others’ perspectives and create new ways to team. Our clients benefit from a range of Deloitte’s services.

My network has taught me three important lessons:

  • Relationships drive trust, and trust drives business. The economy may fluctuate, industries and companies may change, but relationships provide a source of good advice to help you excel.
  • I am the CEO of my own career. Build your brand around your strengths, and if you’re not sure of your strengths turn to your network and ask.
  • Get a different perspective every time. Build a diverse network and be open to their advice. You never know where the next growth opportunity will come from.