By Joan Marsh, Chief Regulatory and State External Affairs Officer, AT&T
22 years. That’s how long I’ve been working for AT&T. When I was hired in 1996, I certainly didn’t foresee that tenure. In fact, when I got married, I told my husband I tended to quit things (relationships, jobs, cities) after 7 years. It didn’t bode well for long-term wedded bliss (though 17 happy years and counting now).
So when I was asked to offer some advice for thriving over the arc of a career in corporate America, I used the opportunity to look back and compile these five tips, many of which only revealed themselves to me over time:
1. Be Tenacious:
The dictionary defines this as persistent in maintaining or seeking something valued. Angela Duckworth calls it “grit” — passion coupled with perseverance. Whatever it’s called, it about holding steadfast to your goals, even when the progress is slow and the obstacles many. I’ve always believed that it’s better to be lucky than good, and it’s better than both to have grit. Tenacity is about more than just steady and dependable performance — it’s about a drive for results that perseveres past sidetracks and setbacks. It’s about staying in the game and at the table. And it’s essential.
2. Build up Resilience:
The sister in many ways to tenacity is resilience — the ability to bounce back after failure. In every career there will be stumbles. As Teddy Roosevelt said, there is no effort without error and shortcoming. But it’s not the fall that defines a person — it is the standing back up. Over the course of my career I’ve come to view setbacks, as frustrating and heart-breaking as they can at times be, as small gifts. If you stay in the moment of what went wrong, and if you are prepared to dig deep to really understand the failure, you will learn something important about who you are, what you are made of and how effectively you work and lead. Looking back, I can honestly say that some of my biggest setbacks opened doors to some of my most rewarding successes.
It is also through resilience that confidence is born. Confidence in my opinion is not about knowing that you are right, it’s about not fearing that you are wrong. Do something new and risky and a little bit scary every day. The results will be extraordinary.
3. Embrace your authentic voice:
This perhaps was the hardest lesson for me to learn, and it took many years of being far too influenced by the opinion and judgment of others before I learned it. When you are overly invested in what others think of you, you spend too little time developing your own authentic voice. Here’s what I finally learned: what other people think of you is none of your business.
By this I don’t mean to suggest that you should ignore genuine feedback offered to further your advancement and development. Honest feedback is a gift. But ignore the critics and the naysayers — they will stifle your creativity, have you second guessing your positions and ultimately undermine your ability to make unique and wonderful contributions.
4. Find a place for stillness:
In this all-connected always-on digital world, where your email and newsfeed always beckon, carving out some time for stillness has become more essential than ever. There are many ways to find some zen — a walk in nature, a meditation app, even working on an old-fashion jigsaw puzzle can do it for me. The key is stepping away from the pings and the buzz and calming the constant RSS feed in your brain.
Research tell us that ten minutes of stillness in the morning, before you check your emails and twitter feed, can lead to a more productive day. Ten minutes of calm at night can lead to better sleep. So, turn off social media, fire up your Apple Music Meditation Mix, sit back for 10 mins and try to do nothing.
5. Practice gratitude:
Gratitude is the art of being thankful every day, in good times and bad, for the people and places and things of your life. It is said that gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and attracts positive energy. And it’s easy to do. If you end each day by taking three minutes to think about three things you are grateful for, you are on your way to an attitude of gratitude.
The enemy of gratitude is comparison. Beware comparison, it is a thief. It will rob of your pride and your contentment. Iyanla Vanzant has called comparison an act of violence against the self. This is one lesson I am constantly relearning. Gratitude reminds us that who we are and what we have is enough. So, stay focused on your journey, be grateful for those that travel with you and allow your light to shine.