As Vice President, External Communication at Loblaw & Shoppers Drug Mart, Tammy knows a good attitude–coupled with skill, opportunity, and luck–can go a long way toward career success. That’s why we’ve partnered with SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.—Putting Women’s Health First—to bring you the lessons Tammy has learned through her business experience, plus plenty more tips and advice that will help you achieve health and balance in mind, body, and spirit. Because you’ll be at your best, in your personal life and your career, when you LOVE.YOU.
By Tammy Smitham
When I first began my career in the world of communications I set some aggressive goals for myself. I wanted to be a director by the age of 30 and be a vice president by the age of 40. I have always had a competitive drive, somewhat nurtured by my parents. I distinctly remember bringing home a test in elementary school and discussing it over the dinner table. The conversation consisted of me telling my parents I got an A, and instead of offering applause and compliments their response was: “Why wasn’t that an A+?”
What I didn’t know when I started my first job, was that my competitiveness and drive would only get me so far. I was progressing well and being awarded projects of increasing complexity, but also doing my fair share of the grunt work. Most people working in public relations know that you must put in your time lugging boxes and stuffing press kits—that’s part of the job and I embraced it. However, there was a day when my commitment to my job was challenged.
The company I worked for was under pressure to cut costs and a decision was made to lay off the receptionists on select floors. I happened to overhear a conversation in which it was suggested that I could take on some of the receptionist’s duties like photocopying and making coffee. I was enraged, thinking these tasks were not part of my job description. In fact, I didn’t even know how to make coffee. I marched into my boss’ office and pleaded my case. I thought she would wholeheartedly support me, but to my surprise she said: “Tammy, life isn’t fair.”
And you know what? She was right. It isn’t. That day I learned to accept the fact that as hard as I might try, some things were still out of my control. I could learn to make coffee (although I am still an amateur) but what I really needed to do was change my attitude. I believe skills can be taught, but attitude cannot.
My own experience in business has taught me that career advancement depends on a combination of factors: skill, attitude, luck, and opportunity. While you can control some of these, others will always be beyond your control.
Communications and public relations is an evolving field. It is important to continue to grow your skills by taking on new projects, sharing best practices with others in the industry, staying on top of trends, and working to improve your writing. Learning, in most fields, is ongoing and should be embraced.
What I love about the team of people I work with is that they all care deeply about our work, our company, and their jobs. They come to work every day wanting to make an impact and a difference. Their attitude is palpable and contributes to the overall dynamic of the group. There have been times when I have made a decision to promote someone, not based on their skill set but on their attitude. This, above all else, can make or break a career.
I am not suggesting you throw your fate to the wind and hope that luck will bring you the job you’ve always wanted. But, you can position yourself to be ready for luck by having the skills and attitude that will make others want to give you a chance. When I first received a call from a recruiter for a position at Shoppers Drug Mart, I eagerly interviewed for the role. I didn’t get the position though. While disappointed, I figured it just wasn’t meant to be. Luckily, six months later I received another call from the same recruiter. She explained that there had been a change in management and they were open to interviewing me again. This time, I got the position and ended up working for a manager who helped guide me toward the next stage of my career.
When it comes your way, take it. That may mean you overload yourself at some points in your career, but you will be surprised by the capacity you actually have to manage it all. The outcome will not only build your portfolio, but it will also signal to others that you are open to the challenge.
I did achieve those career goals that I set for myself so many years ago. But they weren’t accomplished as a result of my drive alone. I have been supported, trusted, and mentored by some of the best people throughout my career. And, I’ve always tried to maintain the right attitude to achieve success. After all, sometimes you just have to make the coffee!
SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. – Putting Women’s Health First – is our commitment to helping you stay focused on being your best in body, mind and spirit. It shares the expertise of our partners and connects you with others in support of local, community-based Women’s Health initiatives across Canada. Find one that moves you and join our journey to strengthen Women’s Health across Canada! If your charitable group has a program to help women in your community lead stronger and healthier lives, we may be able to help.