The Fortune 500 Insider Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Beth Brady, CMO of The Principal Financial Group, has answered the question: In choosing a career, how much should pay matter?
When people ask me how much pay should matter in a career, I always tell them, “When you love what you do, the pay will come.” I’m not saying money isn’t important, but I would rather work at something I am passionate about for less money than force myself into a career box I don’t fit in — regardless of salary. Besides, if I love what I do, I’m going to give it my all, and that’s usually a better formula for success — which is generally reflected in a growing salary.
But love isn’t everything. I still need discipline around how I focus my energy. Here are some principles I’ve adhered to that have brought me success in the career I love:
Have a plan
I love the interview question, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” I learned long ago to make sure I could always answer it. I believe you have to know where you’re going to get where you want to be. Set goals for five, 10 or even 15 years down the road. Envisioning is the key to making it happen.
Follow the 90% rule
Spend 90% of your time on what you do well. A great mentor of mine told me early on to stop agonizing over the things I’m not good at (or continuously struggle to successfully accomplish). It is good to be aware of the things you don’t do well, but better to not let them derail you. Generally, those are tasks for which I have little or no passion. Instead, I was advised to put my effort where my talents and interests lie — that’s where I will really excel.
Take (smart) risks
Don’t be afraid to try new things. For example, in a profession such as marketing, there are many different specialties — advertising, PR, web, promotions, etc. Try them all, as the diverse experiences will help you find out where your real passions lie and help you become an experienced, well-rounded professional.
Do take things personally
That’s not a typo. The statement, “Now, don’t take this personally,” has never made much sense to me. When I’m getting feedback, I should take it personally — without being offended. It is my work — my career. So it is personal. I look at those as teachable moments and try to turn them into something positive to help me do more than better — to do my best. It’s not the feedback as much as what you do with the feedback that helps you become your best self.
Nine times out of 10, an opportunity is not going to knock on your door. You must make it happen. Advancing your career means putting your passion to good use inside and outside of work. Extracurricular activities such as volunteering, getting on local boards, or helping out at a school are great ways to expand your network and build quality relationships with people who might be able to help you in the future. I guarantee you will learn something from these experiences that you can use in your career.
Be yourself — always
But be your best self as much as possible. Don’t let others define who you are or how you should feel. You will be happier, more positive and will truly thrive in your career.
My mother always said, “Patience is a virtue.” While it drove me nuts, I now understand what she meant. Building a career does not happen overnight. It means paying your dues, which takes time, discipline, heart and love.
To live your passion, you must live boldly. Be curious. Ask questions. Take charge. Speak your mind. Make the most of your mistakes. Yes, if you are bold, you are likely to misstep. But as Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson says, “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over. If you fall flat on your face, at least you are moving forward!”
My career journey has not been easy, but it has been fulfilling and rewarding. That’s because over time, I learned what I was I good at and worked hard to follow my passion. Hoping for a promotion? A pay raise? Focus on what you love, work hard and the pay will follow.