It all started as a six-month internship at the adidas Headquarters in Germany. Fast forward 15 years and I’m now the VP of Concept to Consumer for adidas Global Football.
Young people always ask me how I was able to do it, expecting some hard and fast hacks that will give them a shortcut to the top. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I don’t have a magic trick that will instantly boost your career, but I do have four main pieces of advice that I learned along the way that will certainly set you up for success.
1. Put your hand up and trust the process
You need to put your hand up and ask for challenges. Don’t expect others to bring you what you want. Unless you ask for it, it’s not going to come. We create our own luck. Once you make the ask, it’s important to be patient and give space to whoever you spoke with to support you in making it happen.
I have the philosophy that things happen for a reason, even if you don’t know what that reason is. Every move I’ve made came when I was ready for it, which is easy to forget because we’re the hamster in the wheel that just wants to go faster and higher. Be assertive and ask for challenges, but be sure to balance that with patience and trust.
2. Open your mind
I see an open mind in two ways: firstly self-reflection and secondly diversify your world view.
You need to be able to ask for feedback and you need to be able to take it. And gosh, that’s not easy. However, hearing it, digesting it, and taking the time to go through it is such a beneficial process. Feedback is critical for growth!
As far as broadening your world view, travel is the best way to do this. Since travel isn’t always possible, you can always take small steps. Watch the news from all sides, particularly from sources that you disagree with. You don’t necessarily have to change your opinion, but it makes you more aware of different schools of thought. Educate yourself about the issues surrounding you and hopefully you’ll become a better and more aware individual. This is critical for succeeding personally and professionally.
3. The risk is never as high as you perceive
I was told that we have about 80,000 thoughts per day, 75,000 of which are negative. Now I’m not certain that those figures are exactly right, but I can completely relate to this. There’s always a little voice in the back of my head that tells me, “That’s not good enough,” or, “You can do better.” I would say, especially for women, that we tend to highlight what we can’t do as opposed to thinking about all that we can do. This is what I mean when I say the risk is never as high as you perceive.
When it comes to either making a move to a different work location, changing departments or being the new kid on the block, break down the challenge into smaller parts to keep you feeling positive and motivated.
It’s like in business. If you want to achieve net sales of $100 million, that may seem daunting. But if you break it down into something you can digest, such as earning $1 million in the first year, and build from that, you’ll be more likely to embrace the challenge instead of shying away from it.
4. Don’t plan so much
I’ve never had a plan. I originally started with adidas on a six-month internship and now I’m here 15 years. I never had VP as a target.
You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do right now; it’s not necessary for success. Focus on the smaller, day-to-day tasks and projects; your hard work will be recognized and rewarded. And above all believe in yourself without being cocky… Trust me, I am proof.