If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants (Sir Isaac Newton)
There was a thought-provoking article in “The Financial Times” this Monday called “Who helped you get where you are today, and why?“. The author, Margaret Heffernan, talks about her favorite interview question, which, if not answered, acts as an obstacle for moving further with a candidate. This question, which she puts also in the title, is: “Who helped you in your career?”. Surprisingly, a lot of people are unable to answer this question, attributing their success exclusively to their own efforts and brilliance. Even though, without the latter you cannot get far either. She rightly points that:
“(…) successful careers depend on a vast, invisible infrastructure of parents, teachers, colleagues, bosses, friends, spouses and mentors”.
If I look back at my own career (that period when I had a corporate one), there has always been somebody, who helped me one way or the other.
- my mother, who supported me and lifted me up at all stages of my career (and her encouragement continues as she keeps on protecting my wings from being cut.);
- a civil law teacher in the Lyceum who inspired me to pick the topic of “know-how” as a subject of my course work. That triggered my love for intellectual property law and largely determined my future career;
- a friend of my mother who informed me about a job opening in a law firm, where I eventually grew from an Assistant to a Senior Lawyer;
- my former boss, who gave me certain opportunities to shine and grow;
- my team, with whom together we moved forward;
- my clients who were recommending me further to their friends and colleagues…
There were many more people along the way who left their mark on my career and my life in general. Yes, I worked my ass off to get where I got, worked really hard and really good. However, I was never acting in a vacuum, it was other people who gave me certain opportunities, which allowed me to grow; there were people who provided their support and helping hand. And I am really grateful to each and every one of them.
At this point of my life, it is not about a corporate career for me anymore. Nonetheless, I am where I am today not only because of my own actions and my own choices. It is my husband that is the main bread winner in our family. Without his support my – sometimes luxurious – lifestyle would require some serious adjustments. More importantly, it is because of his support that I am able to move in the direction of my dreams much faster than I would otherwise be able to do. On his part, he can also always count on my support whenever he needs it. He can proceed with his “corporate climbing” knowing that at home and with kids everything is under control. It is that mutual support that allows both of us to grow. I am not talking only about financial support. It is likewise (and probably even more so) about encouragement, about willingness to adjust your own plans to support your significant other, about knowing that there is always somebody on your side. Our success is largely due to these factors.
In the end, it is not about trying to belittle your own achievements and your own personal efforts, but it is about acknowledging that success is still a “team sport”. And, of course, it is about gratitude. Margaret Heffernan concludes her article exactly at this tone, saying that:
“(…) psychologists say gratitude is good for you. But the exercise might also prove a timely reminder that we are all responsible to more than just ourselves.”
I could not have put it better.