Over the years, I’ve learned that growing a career is a lot like building and managing a profitable portfolio. Success is all about making smart investments, considering risks, and focusing on the long term.

From the midpoint of my college career, I had a vision for my future: I wanted to be a human resources executive. But first I had to figure out how to get there. One of my valued mentors, my older sister, suggested a counterintuitive approach – pursue an accounting degree to build a strong technical foundation and learn the business world, from assets and liabilities up. I’ve never regretted following her advice. A balanced portfolio of skills is vital in the long term, and it starts with the right building blocks.

Like a good asset manager, I focused next on diversification. Developing acumen in communication, negotiation, and leadership took time and, most important, mentoring. I put my best foot forward today because I’ve learned from a list of immensely talented mentors over the years, from supervisors to peers to direct reports. Each relationship required an investment of time from both parties. I’m thankful to those who have been vested in my success, and I’ve strived to be vested in theirs as well.

We perform at our peak when we work in an area that challenges and interests us. Over time I balanced the investments in my career portfolio by pursuing work aligned with my interests and for which there’s demand. Migrating my career focus involved taking several well-timed risks. Accepting these risks ultimately brought me to my current role, a position that fully engages me intellectually and is a good match for my energy and passion.

Finally, a thought that runs parallel to the emerging concept of socially conscious investing: I have great passion for serving my community and inspiring others to do the same. It’s the right thing to do, and it pays rich career dividends. As a result of my community-focused time, my network is full of contacts from nearly every segment of the business and nonprofit world. This is a vibrant, well-connected group of people whose values are aligned with my own and those of my firm.

Like investing, building a career portfolio is a process that takes thought, care, and time. But it’s a process that pays dividends for the rest of your life.