24 May 2017 | Grads Corner | upriseVSI Technical
When I graduated from university I knew I wanted to pursue a career within the FMCG industry. 15 years later, I’ve found myself in my dream sales role, at my dream company, Pepsico. Here I lead a team of talented individuals managing our biggest travel and high street accounts and delivering profitable growth across the categories we operate in. Whilst my days are often very busy, I love the pace, and knowing that my team and I have impacted what shoppers can see in store.
I don’t often have a chance to reflect upon the lessons I have learnt over the past decade and a half – however, I do think it’s important to take time to do so. It’s these career lessons that help me remember what’s important to me as an individual, and hopefully can provide some useful advice to those about to start out in their careers.
1. Ask yourself what you can do differently
When you enter any organisation, large or small, it’s very easy to go with the status quo. I’ve always believed that you find opportunities to make a real impact when you challenge the norm and ask yourself what you could do differently - whether it’s approaching a problem from a different angle, asking yourself how you could make an everyday task more efficient, or searching for a completely new idea to generate growth.
2. Create your own personal brand
A great line manager once told me to find something in each role that I could be “famous for” and ever since then, that’s what I’ve tried to do. Whether that’s always being the person to challenge the status quo, or perhaps it’s simply taking the time to specialise in a certain area, creating your own personal brand will mean that people remember who you are…
3. Gain a breadth of experience
Sometimes there is a tendency for people to solely seek vertical career progress to the exclusion of other opportunities. However, the next move doesn’t always need to be a promotion - in Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’ she says it's better to think about your career as a jungle gym not a ladder. This is something that I have held close to my heart, as the reality is that most of us still have a few decades of work ahead of us, therefore why rush? Take time to learn different functions and channels, building yourself a solid foundation of knowledge and gaining a breadth of experience. This is what will differentiate you from your peers and give you a more holistic approach when your dream job does become available. In my career I’ve consciously made sideways moves to gain a breadth of experience, specifically stepping away from a successful sales role to develop category and shopper expertise. I truly believe you can accelerate your longer-term prospects if you look sideways first.
4. Surround yourself with people that inspire you
I’ve always believed that if you surround yourself with people that inspire and support you, then you’ll feel empowered to succeed. I’ve been fortunate to work with some truly exceptional people in my career who have coached and challenged me, as well as recognised my achievement. These are the people that I believe have played a fundamental role in my progression. Great colleagues will help bring out the best in you as I found out in 2016 when I was fortunate to win the PepsiCo ‘Speed of the Cheetah’ national sales award, something that would not have been possible if I hadn’t been part of such a great team.