One of my favorite sayings is, “Life has to be lived going forward, but it can only be understood in reverse.” It’s true, one of the best ways to understand life and your career is to look back at the decisions you’ve made along the way, both good and bad, and glean what you can from them. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with a very diverse group of people and have learned some valuable lessons that are worth bearing in mind no matter who you are or what stage of your career you’re in.
Early on, for example, I realized how important it is to learn as much as you can about your job. Not just your role, but also your department, your company and your industry. Doing so will make you more knowledgeable and improve your performance. Plus, you’ll show everyone that you are engaged, enthusiastic and proactive. The bottom line is that high performers who have a great attitude are the ones who stand out and get noticed.
It’s also important to build your personal brand by recognizing your natural talents and the value of your unique and diverse point of view. Communicating those talents and viewpoints to others, along with your goals and ambitions, is essential. As your exposure increases and you develop your network of contacts, the value of being able to succinctly describe who you are and what you can offer cannot be overestimated.
As you move through your career, new opportunities will present themselves and you should consider thinking of your career in terms of a career lattice rather than a career ladder. While career ladders imply that there’s only one path to success, career lattices encourage adaptability, and give you the broad background and experience you’ll need to move into more senior roles. One of the best things you can do for your career is to accumulate a variety of skills and experiences by taking on new responsibilities, moving into other roles, or even working for different companies or in different industries.
Lastly, be careful to strike the work-life balance that’s right for you. Patience and flexibility are key. It’s important to understand that you’re not going to find that perfect balance every day or even every week, and you should be open to making course corrections as your circumstances change.
Meeting your career goals isn’t easy, but if you truly learn from your own and other peoples’ experiences, you will already be a step ahead.