The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Keith Daly, chief claims officer at Farmers Insurance, has answered the question: What are three skills that are critical to success?
It’s almost summer, and as a college graduate, you’re likely looking to start your career. Beyond the technical knowledge you may now be able to bring to your chosen career, there are some important characteristics you need to help you excel and create a successful, long-term career. And while you won’t find them in a traditional textbook, I have found these three skills can help to differentiate good workers from standout employees:
Remember to always be your authentic self. The person who goes to work each day should be the same person who comes home to family and friends each night. You’d be surprised how obvious it can be to those around you if those two personas diverge. Moreover, the amount of energy it takes to flex from one persona to another is huge and is simply unsustainable over a long-term career.
In most cases, when people get hired, the natural tendency is to try to meld into the culture of their new company. You can certainly learn from others at work, but your objective shouldn’t be to emulate them at the expense of your own self. You were hired because of your unique attributes. Let your authentic self come through. Focus on self-awareness to help you determine who you are and who you are not—what your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus more on creating a space for yourself within your employer’s organization, while still looking for the best aspects of your new team that you can integrate into your own approach.
Authenticity builds trust and lets coworkers see that you have their best interests at heart. That authenticity helps pave the way for you to build a network or join a team, delegate tasks, and become a time management pro. Changing who you are—your style—erodes trust.
Be inquisitive, be curious, then act
In my opinion, it’s always a positive to be inquisitive and curious. It’s important to ask a lot of questions and learn as much as you can about your organization, its products, services, and customers. But curiosity is not enough on its own. You need to follow curiosity with action. Otherwise, what you’ve learned is merely academic. Ask yourself, “Now what do I do with this knowledge?” Have the courage and the conviction to follow through, and then do the right thing by taking the proper course of action.
We seek critical thinkers, consequential thinkers, and those with an entrepreneurial spirit when adding new people to our team. We want people who are able to flex their judgment and will take the necessary next steps. It’s important to remember, too, that not every action will necessarily be the right or best action, especially in your first job, but continually employing the process will refine your skill over your career’s lifetime.
Diversity is extremely important, and we embrace a diversity of thinkers at Farmers.
We want people with varying points of view to work closely and collaboratively with others—including those who are outspoken and have strong opinions. We believe an inclusionary policy that embraces everyone leads to better decisions, a better organization, and a superior brand.
For example, it would be easy to assemble a team of people who act like me, think like me, have a personality similar to mine, and a communication style that mimics mine. In many cases, we would have a tidy consensus on an issue. But what would that really accomplish? The end goal for organizations is to create better outcomes. That takes genuine collaboration among people who all see things just a little bit differently.
Graduation can be a nerve-wracking time: You’ve been thrust into the workforce and expected to hit the ground running. I urge you to look at it another way: as your opportunity to take the first step in a lifetime of learning and development, most of which takes place outside of the classroom. Trust your authentic self, ask numerous questions, and be ready to follow that knowledge with decisive actions. Embrace those who offer a diversity of thoughts, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful career.