The road I traveled to reach my goals started in my parents’ kitchen, where I was consistently taught that I would achieve my dreams if I trusted in myself, worked hard, and made informed decisions, even if they might not always be well received. This is the foundation of my success: “To thine own self be true.”

The basic tenet of my philosophy is that you are responsible for your career path. There is rarely a prescribed and direct path to success. here are some guiding principles I’ve learned and applied:

Be completely engaged. Remain focused on your current assignment and job responsibilities, rather than looking ahead to the next opportunity or promotion.

Be prepared for any opportunity. Educate yourself both formally, with advanced degrees and certifications, and informally, by joining industry groups or attending industry-related seminars and functions.

Be flexible—say yes. Be open to assignments that may be outside your expertise. Opportunities that have been most helpful for my growth have been those outside of my comfort zone. They broadened my skills and reinforced my self-confidence.

Be clear about setting expectations. When you assume a new assignment outside your area of expertise, fully understand what the expectations are, and don’t pretend to know more than you do. Request coaching, staff support, or other reasonable assistance to help you acclimate to the new role.

Be a professional. Act and dress professionally.

Be a good communicator. Effective and influential speaking and writing skills are essential to success. Invest time to enhance these skills. The smartest people may not be the most successful if they aren’t able to communicate in a clear, concise, and credible manner.

Be decisive. Being able to make well-informed (and possibly unpopular) decisions is a true sign of a leader.

Be willing to take a risk and to make mistakes. Taking well-informed, reasonable risks is an integral part of a successful career. Turn adverse situations into learning experiences.

Being responsible for your career path includes learning from others: your family, teachers, mentors, mentees, friends, and colleagues. Listen, observe, and absorb. What works; what doesn’t?

Finally, be patient. Success may not follow the time frame that you envision. It is better to be promoted one year “late” than one year too “early.” As I learned from my parents, “To thine own self be true.”