From the MD: You can't buy experience
You can listen carefully and take notes. You can write a to-do-list and focus on your day to day actions, but the harsh reality of life, and particularly a professional life, is that you can't buy experience.
Every minute of experience counts exponentially in your favour. An obvious developmental statement but one with deep ramifications for the modern professional. A leading South African CFO said that the defining characteristics of successful finance professionals (although it probably applies equally to any professional) are the ability to communicate, an understanding of effective resource allocation for your business, genuine curiosity and a balance between calling people on their "BS" and being a brave supporter of your colleagues.
Perhaps the only element I could humbly add would be "the courage to learn". Not be right or wrong. Not win or lose. Just be brave enough to try, learn and try again. It is this iterative process that gives you experience and it cannot be bought, borrowed, copied or stolen. It is a very personal process and each person is able to take something unique from a shared experience.
Do you have courage? I'd suggest that if you're able to make a choice - it can be as simple as A or B, or as complicated as A to Z - and recognise that in a professional environment almost no choice is life threatening, then you're well on your way. Try something completely new. Don't do the same thing. Look for the lesson in your choice and be honest when it didn't work. If you can consciously make choices that bring new perspectives, different challenges and a degree of fear or at least discomfort (a sign you're onto genuine courageous choices!) you will gather experience that will set you apart and almost certainly, on a road to success over time.
Writing a post for CFO.co.za - it's genuinely terrifying. I'm taking some of my own advice to heart and started by making a simple choice.