6 Keys to Success
By Angela Hokanson
Vice President and General Manager, Safety, Production, and Emerging Markets
There is no single path to success. Not only does every professional field present a different roadmap, but every individual finds the course that suits them best. Some sprint to the finish, and others go on a grand tour that visits multiple destinations before reaching an ultimate goal. But no matter what your path looks like, there are a few keys to success that may help you on your way.
Throughout your career, you’ll build a network of friends and colleagues who help you grow both personally and professionally. That network is a powerful resource — one of the most powerful there is — but you must keep in mind that it’s built of people who are working on their own paths. If they remember you for your kindness and positive attitude, they will be more inclined to help you.
Building mutually beneficial relationships can be easy. It starts with respect: no matter who you meet or what they do, respect their work and recognize their expertise. As your relationship grows, earn trust by following through on your commitments and delivering quality work. As time progresses, nurture and evolve the relationship as necessary, and make sure you maintain a personal connection. It may be easier to send an email, but taking the time to speak to someone in person or on the phone will help you connect with your colleagues on a deeper level.
You will not always be the smartest person in the room, and you don’t have to be. Everyone brings unique experience to the team, and that’s why they’re there. So when they explain something you’re not familiar with, make sure you’ve understood it correctly. Be vocal and ask questions when something is unclear to you. Even if you think you understand the new information, try to explain it in your own words to make sure you got it right.
It’s more important to walk away with clarity than to understand everything the first time. You may have to relay the information to someone else later, and if you get it wrong you may end up with bigger problems.
Sometimes you will be the smartest person in a room on a given topic. In those situations, you need to express yourself in a way that everyone can understand. Be sure to explain the topic thoroughly — don’t assume that everyone is familiar with the basics. And explain your thoughts in common terms — eliminate jargon that can leave people more confused than when you began.
If you’re communicating in person, make eye contact to engage your listeners and make sure they understand what you’re saying. And if you’re writing, read over the piece a few times — or even have someone else read it over — to see if everything makes sense and to check for mistakes.
Take a Break
It’s easy to get so absorbed in work that we forget to take time for ourselves. Whether it’s to have fun on vacation, relax at home, or take care of your health, taking time away from work is important. It helps us reflect on our work-life balance, refresh ourselves, and come back to work with a revitalized mindset.
I personally found it extremely beneficial to take a pause and focus on personal matters earlier this year. It was eye opening to see how long it took me to unwind from a work mindset and take a breath. The time away allowed me to spend time with my family, indulge in personal interests, and take care of personal issues that would only be a distraction at work. Not only did it help me focus more clearly, but it also gave me time to experience the world in ways I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. And now I can return to work with a new perspective and fresh ideas.
You’re undoubtedly excited to reach your goals, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey. If you rush into jobs that you’re not ready for, you may find yourself unprepared and unable to deliver.
So when you go for a promotion and don’t get it, step back and try to see what you still need to learn. See how you can still grow and evolve in your current role. The people around you want to set you up for success, and those with more experience know what it takes to succeed. Listen to what they tell you, and be thoughtful about your career moves.
Be True to Yourself
You are your own best supporter. Over time, you’ll recognize what does and doesn’t feel right. You’ll learn to separate the good advice from the bad. And you’ll know when you need time and space for yourself. So speak up when you have an idea or need a little help — people will see and appreciate your authenticity. At the end of the day people will respect what really matters: not your title, but your value as a person.