Sure, many of us want to be first in various aspects of life, especially as it relates to our careers. Your aspirations and goals may be to climb the ladder fast, be recognized in the industry or start a thriving and fast-growing company all under the age of, let’s say, 35.
I can relate to these goals, but with time, I’ve learned that experience is important, and there are benefits to slow growth. Here’s why:
1. Nothing beats real experience.
Allow time to learn and develop in a role and within an organization. Every team and company culture is different. Use these differences to create ways to be a stronger leader. Use challenges to allow yourself to overcome these situations. Most importantly, learn and reflect to be even more impactful the next time.
I’ve always been motivated and hungry for more in my career, especially early on. From Doug Busk, formerly the global group director at Coca-Cola, I learned that with patience, determination and good work comes more responsibility and bigger roles. Doug was always supportive and receptive to my passion for gaining more brand experience and urged me to apply for roles that would challenge me as a marketer — even though it meant leaving a gap on his team. I still thank him for that.
2. Feedback makes you stronger.
If you don’t really listen to feedback and make changes, you’re taking steps backward. It’s a skill you learn over time, but listening to feedback is only one aspect; how you apply feedback is the most important (and most difficult) part.
I’ve learned to remember the importance of lifting up those around you from a close friend of mine. Surround yourself with good talent and listen to them. They are your biggest advocates and often have the most honest opinion on what you can do to be a better leader. I would be lying if I didn’t say it was partially due to my ambition and constant hunger of taking on more and always exploring, but I can say in full confidence that I wouldn’t be where I am today without real feedback to make me better.
3. Show true value over time.
Creating change takes time. Allow time to understand your impact and contribution based on your actions — this is the true test of your worth. Becoming a change agent happens by implementing new ideas and seeing plans through execution.
I learned from Allyson Park, global vice president of corporate affairs for Mars, that it’s important to have regular conversations related to your performance — to celebrate contributions as well as gain feedback on overall work. Allyson taught me the importance of 30-, 60- and 90-day conversations to clearly communicate expectations and responsibilities in order to ensure success.
4. Understand problems, and create solutions.
To fully understand the problems, you must be curious. To be curious, you must ask questions. Immerse yourself in data, and come up with creative solutions based on what you know. Past data informs us of trends, but innovation happens with a deep understanding of historical data paired with new and fresh thinking.
Having open communication as a team is critical. I create “team norms,” and problem-solving is always on the list. Being able to drive change by addressing problems is a skill that comes with experience, and I leverage a regular forum on my team that helps facilitate these discussions.
5. Build relationships.
Developing and fostering relationships takes work, and it requires time and energy to create trust. A trusted community is critical and it is created over time. Invest and support people as you evolve in your career, and people will likely do the same for you. Be confident in yourself first; relationships will soon follow.
There’s nothing better than working with people you enjoy, who challenge you and make you better. I have had the fortunate (and unique) experience of being able to lift others as I explore new roles.
I realized the importance of forming relationships and started to build an amazing network of past managers, mentors and peers who have become my friends above anything else. Email check-ins, coffee dates and phone conversations throughout the years have helped me make smarter decisions as they relate to new roles, determine what to ask for during negotiation stages, learn how to overcome obstacles at work, and embrace and keep up with change in such a dynamic, fast-paced industry.
Having big aspirations and goals is great (and encouraged), but it also comes at a cost. Allow yourself to learn and change earlier on in your career, and you’ll see the longer-term benefits of this later in your career. Create opportunities for yourself, and be committed for a certain length of time to truly learn and develop as part of a team.