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Blog/August 11, 2014

What I Wish Someone Told Me When I Was 25: a Note From Cynthia Paul

For those of you that do not know Cynthia Paul, professionally, Cynthia is a managing director with FMI’s Management Consulting group.  Cynthia has worked at FMI for 31 years, where she supports industry organizations to position them to capture market share and grow profitability.  In addition, Cynthia is a devoted wife and mother, and rumors have it that last year she shot a moose!

However, one unique thing everyone should know about Cynthia is she does not want her professional success to be associated with being a woman in a male dominated industry.  With good reason, and I’m happy to have heard her reasoning at the age of 25. I asked Cynthia if I could do a feature on her as a woman executive at FMI, not knowing I was about to get more than a feature on her career and success, but a life lesson.

Why I Have Been Successful

It is interesting to reflect on the advice that would have made a difference for me when I was 25. Throughout my career, people have been very generous with their time, insights and advice. I’m not sure that I’ve always taken full advantage of the advice; sometimes you have to experience it firsthand to truly understand what they meant to tell you. The key is being good at asking for what you need.

Here are the four things I would encourage anyone who is early in his or her career to do:

  1. Define what success means for you. Have the courage to set your own standards and measure your progress toward that goal. Don’t get caught up in what society, your family, etc., tells you it is.
  2. Never hold back from doing something because you don’t know how you can get it done. No one ever really knows. Just try it, take the first step and figure it out as you go. Do not go in with predetermined limitations. That includes balancing a career with a family, going back to school, taking on an extra assignment at work, etc. You don’t have to know exactly how you are going to pull that one off; just commit to doing it. You’ll get creative as to ways to accomplish it.
  3. Be an expert at something. Dig in, learn, grow, work hard and communicate the expertise inside and outside of your organization.
  4. Take the long view. There are always going to be challenges and day-to-day troubles. Focus on your goals and the progress you are making. Forget the potholes that you step into from time to time. If you are moving forward that is what counts.

Looking back in time is fun and easy. All the day-to-day tribulation that take up so much of our time is eased away, and all you see are the fun times and trends that have made a career so worthwhile. Focus on your definition of success, work hard, and you will be successful sooner than you think.

Want to know more?