I think about the ingredients that have helped me attain career longevity and success, setting clear goals and putting good advice to work are the most important components. Pure tenacity and perseverance will go a long way when it comes to being successful; however, in order to end up where you want, you need to have a clear goal and plans for how to get there.
While mentoring and advice are important to help support you along the way, no amount of talking will replace getting off the sidelines and engaging in the work.
Early in my career, I was a diligent worker. I spent a lot of time honing my technical skills – putting my head down and performing my tasks. My mentors often spoke about the importance of developing relationships with clients and colleagues. I heard the advice, but I didn’t put it to work. I rationalized that our clients were paying for a service, and through my diligence in applying my technical skills, they would see that I was helping provide that service.
However, when I started attending client meetings, I immediately realized that my colleagues who’d spent as much time on relationship building as they did on technical performance were the ones who were recognized and rewarded. It wasn’t until that moment – when I felt invisible to the client – that I internalized what my mentors had been trying to teach. As the old saying goes, “Someone can tell you all day long that a stove is too hot to touch, but it only takes one touch to understand what they mean.”
From that experience, I established a new goal: to be more intentional about how I allocate my energy between improving my technical performance and building relationships. The beauty in focusing on relationship building is that it has given me the opportunity to cultivate my personal interests, such as visual/ performing arts and golf. Meeting people with similar interests provides an opportunity to connect; people like to know who you are as a person when they do business with you.
As you move throughout your career, you will move from building your technical and business competence to an increased focus on relationship building and people development. Try to always be intentional about how you allocate your energy and keep your end goal in mind. With just a little planning, you have the power to attain career longevity and success.