What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question many of us are asked, yet few know the answer. This is often because the answer lies not in what we do, but rather who we are, and what we bring at a given point in time to the roles we fulfill. Who we are, and the focus we have, changes as we age and grow. These roles shift and expand. Thus, our careers need to do the same. They need to grow with us, complimenting the priorities we have and the goals we wish to achieve.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a group of new hires. Looking at the mostly millennial audience, I couldn’t help but think about what advice I would have wanted at their age. Job satisfaction and employee retention is, after all, rooted in the culture of a company.
After some thought, here’s what would have helped me most:
- Be flexible. Changes are ongoing and you will be a part of them, regardless of where you land. Bosses come and go, as do co-workers, teams, and even entire divisions. Don’t let that define your career. Embrace the change and view it as opportunity to learn and grow.
- Don’t expect someone else to motivate you. You own your career. If you don’t like who you work for or what you do, the great news is that if you go to a company is big enough, you can move around within and thus are provided provide opportunity for reinvention. Life isn’t always fair. If you struggle, don’t let that stop you; keep moving forward. I always like to say to my team, “Baby steps are steps too, as long as they are in the right direction.” Keep taking those baby steps and know that some days, you may go two forward, three back, but as long as you keep moving, it’s progress.
- Build networks. In order to reinvent oneself, you need to have a great personal brand. When making career moves, no one relies solely on evaluations in HR systems. The decision is made predominately by what others you worked with/for say about you. Bad reputations are impossible to erase, but a good one is golden. Build your personal board of advisers you can rely on for sound guidance, honest feedback, and support. They can help you keep any work angst you may experience in perspective.
- Be open. I firmly believe that anyone with a positive attitude can succeed. However, someone who is resistant to change, even if they are the smartest person in the room, likely will not. Perhaps my view is harsh, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met really smart people who watch the world around them change, resist it, and then find themselves out of a job. The difference between these individuals is their desire and drive. Take the role that gets you out of your comfort zone so you can gain the experience. Approach it as a new way to drive innovation and learn, even if you aren’t always the smartest one in the room.
- Be tenacious. Think of your career as a lattice, not a ladder. As you gain that experience, you are building your toolkit of knowledge and your networks. Some days you’ll gain management experience or the promotion you’d hoped for; other times you’ll get frustrated. When you do, pick yourself up, dust off, and keep taking those steps in the right direction.
In closing, make sure that your career reflects who you are and the values you have. You will change, but as you age, you will know yourself better. Don’t fear uncertainty – embrace it and grow with it. You never have just one role, one career, or one priority. Stay hungry and adapt. Your career, and your priorities, will exhibit different shades in your lifetime. Find the job that brings you the most satisfaction, and the one that will shift with you to make you happiest.
Jennifer Schulze (email@example.com) is vice president of partner marketing at SAP. She leads a global team of marketing experts to ensure partner demand generation, awareness, and go-to-market success. She has more than 20 years of experience in consumer and technology marketing, with expertise in software, services, and consumer and business products.
Looking for more insight on where HR is headed? See EIU – How HR leaders are reinventing their roles and transforming business.