Stop fixating on that promotion, says Mars executive Shaid Shah: ‘Worry about learning, not your next job’


In the cutthroat world of climbing the career ladder, landing that next title can feel like the ultimate aim. But take a cue from Shaid Shah, the global president of Mars Food & Nutrition, the powerhouse behind brands like Dolmio, Ben’s Original, and Kevin’s Natural Foods. Forget obsessing over your next job title; focus on learning.

Since joining the $50 billion global food and pet care giant in 2007 from AB InBev, Shah has climbed the ranks from sales director to the helm of its Food & Nutrition department and worked around the world.

“When you’re growing up in corporate life, of course, you’re thinking about, not only how do I do a brilliant job in what I do, but also how do I grow both hierarchically, financially, and all of those sorts of things,” he says. “And what you realize is that what determines success is bigger than that.”

Instead, he says, it’s more important to focus your energy on finding out what energizes you “beyond just a linear career pathway”.

“It’s about acquiring the experiences that you need to realize your ambition, to realize what makes you happy, what makes you tick, what inspires you to get out of bed every day,” Shah explains. “Because career success is more than just hierarchy.” 

In doing that, you’re more likely to choose roles that move you closer to where you ultimately want to be and attain long-term success, instead of taking what just looks like a promotion on paper now.

Ultimately, by understanding what you truly aspire to be and what you want to achieve in life, Shah believes you can realize your true potential.

“That’s one of the opportunities that helps us unlock the best in people,” he adds, referring to the role that managers have to play in success.

Shaid Shah on stage

Courtesy of Freuds Group

Get your head out of the clouds and work hard where you’re at

Similarly, Pret’s CEO told Fortune that looking forward with his feet firmly on the ground, instead of dreaming too big with his head in the clouds, is what he feels has set him up for success.

“I’ve watched people that have been so fixated on the next role that they really take their eye off the job they’re doing,” Pano Christou said. “My philosophy has always been if you do a great job, people will notice you.”

By focusing on excelling in his current job and being the best within his cohort—without “shortcutting” his peers or “stabbing them in the back”—the promotions (from shop floor manager to CEO) swiftly followed.

“I was generally the youngest person or the shortest in a role within my peer group when I got promoted, most of the time throughout my career,” he added. “If you work hard and put your head down, things can happen.”

Never stop learning

It’s easy to assume that once you’ve climbed the ranks, it’s now your turn to impart knowledge onto others. But actually, Shah is still seeking opportunities to learn—despite arguably being at the top of his game. However, he’s now turned the subject onto himself.

“I get feedback regularly,” he says, while joking that “sometimes I like the feedback, sometimes it’s a bit more challenging.”

Either way, he says, getting lessons in where he’s done well (and where he hasn’t) in the eyes of his team, helps him be of better service to the business and all around a better leader.

“I think that’s really important: Focus time on personal development that helps you to grow as a human being as well as a professional.”

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