I have a very clever friend, Deb Graham, founder of ACTStrategic.com, who recently wrote a great article. She asked several women to tell her what they wish they had know at the beginning of their career, and then she synthesized it into an enlightening article. You can read her finished paper here.
What a great question!
My Answer to “What I Wish I Had Known At the Beginning of My Career.”
I started my ‘career’ in my late twenties. Before that I had jobs that in no way could be considered a career. When I started the job that became my career, I was young, smart and VERY opinionated. I thought I knew everything. The most important thing that I learned, and blessedly I learned it quickly, was that I didn’t know everything. I learned to listen to others and to be open to possibilities. One of the most important things that taught me that (and I’m ashamed that I had to learn this) was that I was forced to follow the recommendations of people who worked for me. I couldn’t figure out any way NOT to follow their recommendations, so I took a deep breath and did what they suggested. It worked. It WORKED. It so worked and it was so nothing that I would have ever thought of that it opened my eyes and my methodologies and changed my career and my life. I cannot overstate this. If I hadn’t had this accidental experience, I don’t believe that I would have gone on to manage large departments, nor would I have become VP of Organizational Effectiveness of a large company.
So . . . Lesson #1: Be open to ideas from all levels of the organization and take chances with people and their ideas.
I had another powerful experience that forced me to understand that the way I look at things can be controlled by me. I can choose to look at any situation from a completely different perspective–that of the person I’m disagreeing with, that of my boss, that of the customer–INSTANTLY. I can “flip a switch” on my perspective and REFRAME the situation. When I remember to do it, it always works. I am able to see a solution that wasn’t obvious to me before, and I almost always am energized to solve the problem instead of being stuck.
So . . . Lesson #2: Reframe. Flip the switch to look at it differently.
Finally, the most important and the one that took the longest to figure out is to do the work that I love. I know . . . people say that and it seems obvious, but it is hard to remember. Figure out what motivates you and surround yourself with things that motivate—this is almost always work that you love, but could be position or money or recognition. Whatever it is, create your life with motivation and fun and love. CREATE. YOUR. LIFE. Don’t waste your life doing stuff that makes you unhappy or demotivates you. Know what you love, what you want to do, what motivates you and create work and life around those things.