This month I’ll be celebrating 13 years in the professional workforce. After six companies, two promotions and an MBA somewhere in the middle of all that, I constantly remind myself to run my own race.
The corporate race to the top can be a discouraging one if you allow it to be. If you asked me where I’d be today when I graduated with a B.Comm from Ryerson, I’d have said: “In the C-Suite.” At that time in my life that level and the salary that typically comes with it meant success. Then life happened. I’m now happily married and have two amazing kids and I’ve redefined my definition of success and learned to appreciate the race a lot more. Here are a few things I’ve learned that I hope will help you in your race:
1. Have patience
In my quest to become Manager / Director / VP I never stopped to ask myself what kind of Manager / Director / VP I wanted to be. Sometimes in your race up the corporate ladder, you don’t give yourself enough time to learn and gain valuable experiences that will shape the type of leader you want to be. So, stop and ask yourself: Do you want to be a Director or, do you want to be an amazing Director? One must learn to have patience and embrace life lessons that can only be taught through time, the most coveted thing we have.
2. Keep developing your soft skills
After 13 years I still can’t believe how important it is to learn how to develop relationships and manage people. After years and years of reading books and sitting in classrooms, I’ve learned that the fundamentals that we all learned on the playground are what can give you a significant advantage in the boardroom. Are you a good communicator? Do people like you? Can you control a situation through conflict? Can you motivate others? Can you be a leader? Dealing with people is a skill. Do it well and you can make it far in your career. A great resource is Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
3. Keep learning
I’ve adopted the “student for life” philosophy. It helps me to never be stagnant or complacent. Sharpening your mind, being curious and open to learning new things will help you become successful and be seen as a thought leader in your field. Take courses, read books, have coffee with those colleagues you admire. Do anything and everything that teaches you something. You will be better for it and you’ll have more fun.
4. You are in control of your destiny
Don’t like your job? Find a new one. Don’t sit at a desk you hate, doing work you hate, and expect something amazing will happen to you. Take control and stop complaining because it isn’t going to accomplish anything. Put a plan into action to create the career you’ve always wanted. If you dread going to work every Monday morning — it’s time to start something new.
5. Run your own race
Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t see yourself as a failure because your former classmates are VPs and you aren’t. Everyone is different. Everyone has their own journey. The person you should be competing against is you. Challenge yourself. Go above and beyond. Help as many people as you can as you climb that corporate ladder. Finally and most importantly, appreciate and enjoy the race. All those moments, experiences, colleagues and career milestones are what life is all about. The destination is great, but the journey is the fun part.
Jonathan Chiriboga (Business Management ’04, MBA ’09) is a Digital Marketing & CRM Lead at McDonald’s Canada.