By: Dawn Langeland, President, New York
If you thrive on making a plan and sticking to it, the title of this post alone may have given you some agita. It did for me and I wrote it. Is it possible to succeed without following the plan?
Sure, you must have a vision and a direction and a path forward. But equally important is the ability to be flexible and adapt to the challenges that life and career throw your way. If you had told me ten years ago – or even five – that I would be running a thriving 100-person office at a global agency in one of the most challenging markets for a PR firm to prosper – and that I would be made President of New York overseeing multiple business units at that same agency – I would have said, “It’s not possible. I have my hands full already.” And I would have said this right before taking an urgent client call, while changing a diaper, desperately trying to shush an upset four-year old and praying that I would find 20 minutes in the next two hours to pump.
But, if you aren’t challenging yourself and pushing past your comfort zone, is it all really worth it? The long hours, the time away from family, the challenge to get it all done and done well? Not in my opinion. And besides, then you’re missing out on the thrill and joy of building something great and bigger than yourself.
So, I’d like the share a few of the key tenets that have allowed me to create a fulfilling career that makes me proud and allows me to live a wonderful life.
- Hustle Every Year of Your Career
The moment that you become complacent is the moment that both you and your company lose equity. Think about it. Your brain is a muscle. If you’re not exercising it in new and different ways often, it atrophies. And so does the success of your role. It’s so important to maintain the drive and ambition that you had your first day on the job. You – and your work – will be much happier for it.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Reinvent Yourself
Careers, if you’re lucky, are long, winding journeys; spanning many, many decades. When I started my career, I was 22 years old, living in an apartment with a few of my friends on 84th street. My life looks a little different today. I have a wonderful husband of 19 years, three super-cool kids and a full support system of family and friends. As I was progressing in my career at each of these different stages of my life, I was nervous about all the new responsibilities I was adding. But I kept changing; I kept evolving; I kept reinventing. Always stay true to your core values, but don’t be afraid to do things differently than you’ve done them before.
- Build and Nurture Relationships
In our business, you are nothing without great people. And I am so thankful to have the GREATEST team! Our people are the lifeblood of our agency – and because of that, you must build strong relationships and nurture them. I have team members and clients that have worked with me for more than a decade. That’s important to your individual brand and the brand you work for. I’ve always focused on building relationships rooted in trust, kindness and fun. If we’re not having fun, we’re doing something wrong. And for anyone who thinks that focusing on relationships is a nice-to-have when you can fit it in, but isn’t a business driver, I challenge that notion wholeheartedly. When you make relationships a top priority, it delivers on your bottom line. And from a personal standpoint, those relationships drive the great times, but more importantly, they buoy you through the challenging ones.
- Don’t Shy Away from Hard Opportunities
If you’re doing something you’ve never done before, don’t have a lot of experience in, and aren’t sure of the right way forward, you’ve landed in the exact place you should be. Hard opportunities force you to stretch and grow. I’ve learned more about myself and about this business during times of distress, when I’ve raised my hand for the challenging project/client/role that seemed unsolvable. When you find the way forward and work with partners to fix the problem, you build confidence to solve the next challenge coming your way.
- Take the Big Job
Full disclosure: I’ve hesitated to take every big job that I was given. Aren’t we all a little insecure when faced with uncharted territory, more responsibility and risk? If you aren’t, call me. I need your secret. For the rest of us, this is a valid and normal feeling. But I’ve built my career on hard work. I concluded that I might as well be doing that hard work with the ability to have greater impact. I thought I had to be perfect for a job before I took it. But it turns out that all I needed to be was imperfectly brave.
These lessons and values have helped me along the way. And I hope they do the same for you. Each of us has something that makes us uniquely special and essential to the profoundly diverse global market that we live and work in. Own whatever that is. Celebrate it. And recognize the value it brings. You are your biggest asset. Invest in yourself now and your path to success and happiness may show itself sooner than you ever thought possible.