Having lived and worked in many different countries, over the years I have often been asked by people about what brought me to a specific country or into a specific job. When I think about my own life and career there are 10 main reasons why I have been happy and successful so far. Some are rather personal but some are applicable to others I believe. Here they are in no particular order of priority:
1. Develop a vision for yourself
It is very important to think about your vision for your own life and career. You need to think of it as a whole. You cannot distinguish between your personal and your professional life as our parent’s used to do. You only have one life and you need to define your goals and ambitions. These may change over time and that’s perfectly fine. But without goals nothing can be achieved.
In my case I have had three goals since I was fairly young:
- Become an international person, learn languages, travel and live in different countries
- Develop into an Entrepreneur at some point of my career
- Be a happy person embracing the world and enjoying life.
2. Look for a mentor
Especially when you are younger, but not only, the opinion and advice of others can have immense value. Having somebody you can trust, gives you honest feedback, understands you and sees the potential in you and opens some doors for you can have a life-long positive impact. A mentor in business can be particularly helpful to help you finding your way and to set you on the right path early in your career. In my case I was fortunate to have a very senior mentor in my first job who offered me a job in Milan/Italy soon after I had started. This was the beginning of an international journey for me and my family that has taken us to live in seven different countries so far.
3. Express yourself
Communication skills are critical to express yourself, convince others and make a point. You need to be able to articulate well, you need to be able to argue and to debate. You need to be able to deal with difficult conversations and to defend your point of view. And you need to be able to present well, including on stage, because communicating with others is essential. You can learn and train this, most brilliant public speakers were not born as such but have developed their skills over the years.
4. Never stop learning
Learning never stops, we all know this. But the pace of change and the amount of new information is ever increasing. Thankfully so are the opportunities to constantly learn and improve. One of the ways to constantly learn is the internet and social media which gives you access to unlimited information, opinions and insight.
5. Live your dream
Never stop dreaming and take risks. Don’t live by conventions and don’t let yourself hold back. You only have one life and in the grand scheme of things it is pretty short. When I was approaching thirty I quit a very well paid job to start my own business, from scratch. Everybody said I was mad and shouldn’t do it. But I did and had an incredible journey as an Entrepreneur for almost 10 years that has positively impacted my entire life. This is something I would never want to miss.
6. Act responsibly
You always get back what you have given. Be mindful of others, respect different perspectives, think of the consequences of your doings on other people’s lives and families. Act and be responsible.
7. Be positive
Always think positively and never take no as an answer. Be happy, smile and laugh a lot. Nobody wants to deal with a grim person.
8. Build on your foundation
I am a firm believer that family and friends are the basis of everything in life. They are your foundation. Never neglect your family or friends because of work. Keep it balanced. I am the happiest person on earth for having a wonderful wife who has supported and helped me along the way and who has made sure I never lose sight of reality and what is important. She is the True North in my life. Without her I would not be here today.
9. Learn languages
Learning other languages is extremely gratifying and useful. It gives you the capability to communicate with other people in their language and to demonstrate that you are really interested in them, their country, culture and lifestyle. And it enriches your personality because when you speak another language you also start thinking and behaving differently. You adopt other habits and you balance your own perspective and life style with those of others. It almost doesn’t matter what languages you learn, although it makes sense to focus on those more widely spoken. And if you have kids, make sure they learn another language as early as possible, even before going to kinder garden.
10. Travel and live abroad
The point on languages and this one are related. Look for opportunities to travel as early and as much as you can outside of your home country. And try to get a job abroad. It almost doesn’t matter where but you will find yourself becoming a different person, more balanced and mature and with a broader perspective of business and life. It is probably the most impactful and fascinating experience you can make, both from a personal and professional perspective.
Author: Marcus Starke is the National Vice President of North America Marketing at SAP. He has worked in many countries across the globe with background in software, CPG, management consulting and agency network management.