BY JAWAD, MY JOB GLASSES MENTOR & VP PROPRIETARY BEVERAGES @ 7-ELEVEN
Next week will be my 25th year anniversary since I started my 1st job as an assistant brand manager at Procter & Gamble. Fresh out of college with a Master’s degree, I was excited to join one of the most respected global marketing and consumer goods organizations. I learned a lot during my three years there, made lifelong friends, and just felt lucky to get a strong career head start. In 25 years, I ended-up working in 5 countries across three continents with multiple large and mid-sized global organizations across diverse industries and moved from my home country Morocco to my adopted one the US. While the journey has been exciting and, looking back, I’m a better, more open-minded and rounded person, I wish I had more mentors along the way to help me choose the right path at critical milestones.
As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
That’s certainly true. Connecting the dots backward, I can see a clear path that got me where I am today, but it wasn’t without some ups and downs, failures and successes, moment of doubts and celebration, drawbacks and achievements. While you may not connect the dots looking forward, there is a way in between, and it starts by embracing learning from other people’s experiences (mentors) earlier on in your career to chart your path to success. Here are five key principles to get you there, based on my own career growth and learning.
1. HAVE A CLEAR CAREER PLAN EARLY ON
This may seem obvious as you get more experienced, but as I mentor a lot of college students, I noticed most don’t have a career plan. To do that, start by finding a mentor, a coach or college counselor to help you chart your path, then work with them to determine your passion points, what you love to do, what you’re great at and what you want to be. A career is a marathon not a sprint, it’s a lifetime journey, so don’t choose one based on what’s trendy (looking at you influencer marketing) or what maybe paying better. Decide it based on what you’re passionate about. If you’re going to spend almost half of your life at work, you’d better do something you love, something you’ll never be bored of, something that’s always exciting and ever-changing. I’ve been in marketing for 25 years, still love the function, and never stopped learning.
2. MAKE SURE YOU SELECT YOUR FIRST JOB WISELY
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The same applies to your career. That first job you’re looking for is going to determine your success or failure for years to come. So make sure you select a job that you don’t only love but that you work for a company, start-up or organization with a great culture, industry respect and a lot of learning opportunities. I always say to my mentees that, while I didn’t do an MBA after graduating from business school, P&G was my MBA. I learned so much about marketing that I would have never learned at any school or university. It helped me build a strong skill set foundation for the foreseeable future through training and on the job application. I learned how to manage a project, the rigor of analytical thinking, how to make data-based decisions, work with and lead cross-functional teams, the importance of attention to details and excellence in execution and much more.
3. CHOOSE A MENTOR EARLY ON
Reality is that it’s hard to find a good mentor, someone you can trust, someone you can confide in, someone that can help you chart a way. So in a lot of instances, you get mentored later in your career when you become a high potential talent for a company and your employer is willing to invest in you so you can grow from an individual contributor to a leader of others and from a leader of others to a leader of leaders. While the more you climb the career ladder, the more pressing it is to have a great coach and mentor, it’s never too early to start. The challenge becomes how to find a good one, so leverage your school alumni network and available on-line resources. There are many at your fingertips today that wasn’t there when I started my first job or even a few years back. Consider My Job Glasses for instance.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES AND TAKE RISKS
As human beings, we like to be in a comfort zone be it family, friends, country, or company. Whether your ambition is to become a global business leader or a successful entrepreneur, you won’t get there by staying in your comfort zone. So don’t be afraid to take risks, even if it means failing. As the saying goes, you learn more from failure than success. You will learn to be resilient, to never give-up, to find creative solutions to complex business problems, to grow a spine and chart your path. So fail fast, learn from it and move on. That’s the best path to long-term success.
5. STAY RESILIENT AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
This is counterintuitive, but you’re your best mentor. Nobody knows you better than yourself. You’re your cheerleader. Don’t listen to that voice that doubts you that doubts your ability to succeed, overcome barriers, chart a different path. Mentors can guide, advise, challenge, coach you, but they can’t make decisions for you. So as Steve Jobs said, follow your gut, destiny, karma, whatever you believe in because it will eventually get you there. Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Hopefully, you’ll find these principles useful. I’m sure there’s more. Those are the first five that came to mind. I learned a few of them the hard way, and they’ve been a compass in helping me navigate career and life storms. There’s never an easy journey to get where you want to be. It will be challenging. It will be tough. There are moments when you will want to give-up. There will be naysayers telling you that you can’t get there. There will be inner voices doubting your ability to climb that mountain. Don’t listen to them. Keep climbing.
Are you a fan of Jawad’s advice? Click here to contact him on My Job Glasses.