While participating in take your child to work day a few weeks ago, I stopped into the SAP Academy where students were wrapping up their final learnings with their graduating class. What an international and motivated group (even after a night of celebration)! My children were in awe of their energy and excitement as they described what they have learned, who they are, and how they will succeed.
Given the many years I have been at this company, seeing them made me think: what advice would I have wanted when I started here in my mid-20s to help me succeed? Job satisfaction and employee retention is, after all, rooted in the culture of a company. After some thought as to what I have experienced, here’s my graduation wisdom:
Like any large organization, we tend to make many changes around here. 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.
2. 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 this company is big enough to provide opportunity elsewhere 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.
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, however, is golden. Build your personal board of advisors who you can rely on for sound guidance, honest feedback and support. They help you keep any work angst you may experience in perspective.
I firmly believe that anyone with a positive attitude can learn to succeed. However, someone who is resistance 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 that 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 in the room.
5. 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, I’d like to say 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. Thus, your career likely needs to change with you. Don’t fear this uncertainty – embrace it and grow with it.