By Brianne Sanchez | Community relations manager, Des Moines University
 
I might be an Iowa transplant, but I've come to love the State Fair during my decade as a resident of the Hawkeye State. For the past several years, I've been the point person for "DMU Day at the Iowa State Fair" (come see us Sunday, Aug. 13, on the Grand Concourse) and so I have the fair at the top of mind. Here are few thoughts on how to be blue ribbon-worthy in your professional life:

Be dependable. The Iowa State Fair has featured a butter cow every year since 1911. People make a pilgrimage to see sculpted dairy, and the Iowa State Fair organizers do not disappoint. When dependability is part of your brand, you can build your reputation upon a foundation of trust. DMU always hosts our "Day at the Fair" sponsorship the first Sunday of the fair, and we have supporters who plan their trip around the ability to connect with our students and receive free osteopathic treatments.

Don't be afraid to innovate. Everyone has their favorite food-on-a-stick standbys, but we like to lose our minds each year over the idea of a newly introduced apple taco. Innovation within the scope of an event or process keeps the spark alive, and ideally adds value for your customer or team. What new services could you serve up that complement tried and true favorites?

Find your niche. The Iowa State Fair has competitions in categories from agriculture to ugly cake making, outhouse races to grape stomping. You wouldn't expect to win by entering 80 different contests, and you probably won't find professional success if you don't invest more deeply on areas where you have natural strengths. Take the time, though, to appreciate those whose skills differ from yours. (I'm looking at you, llama limbo contestants.)

Persist toward your goal. If at first your canned jam doesn't succeed, you can can jam again. Some Iowans have submitted food entries for years, tweaking their recipes over and over before they tickle the judge's taste buds just right. Listen to feedback from your critics, learn from it and improve.

Take a break. Use your vacation time. Pet an animal. Talk to people who are from a different part of the state. Let your legs dangle as you admire the sunset from the Sky Glider. Smile as someone else puts their best mullet forward. If you spent your whole summer in a climate-controlled office, it's time to unplug. Reconnect with what inspires you.

Brianne Sanchez is community relations manager at Des Moines University, a freelance writer, a wife and a mother. She served as founding co-chair of YNPN Des Moines until June 2015 and on past planning teams for TEDxDes Moines and TEDxDesMoinesWoman. She is a Drake University Master of Public Administration alumna and maintains a personal blog at bsinthemidwest.com.