I have always admired people that knew at a young age exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. I must have changed my mind a dozen times. I had no clue where I was headed or even if I was going to go to college.
I had a couple of office administrator jobs post high school but it wasn't until my 20s that I stumbled upon my niche in the world. Of course, I didn't know it was my niche at the time. It was an opportunity that was presented to me in a roundabout way: "I need someone with customer experience for a project. Are you interested?" I had no idea what I was getting myself into - all I knew is that I was moving into the "IT" department - whatever that meant.
I believe it was that naiveté that helped me over the years. If I had known just how challenging it would be - making mistakes every other day and trying to prove that I was an asset to the team without having any experience whatsoever - I probably would have run as fast as I could in the other direction. Looking back, I have no regrets. But there are some things that I wish I had known or had access to at the time. It would have made certain situations and decisions a lot easier.
If I could go back, I would tell my younger self:
1. Finish College
It doesn't matter how many years you have been working in a particular role, there are companies out there that will not interview you unless you have a degree. Nowadays, it's an absolute must even if you are trying to get hired at entry level.
2. Find a Good Mentor
This seems like common sense but I was so busy trying to keep my head above water that I didn't stop to think that maybe having a trusted advisor would benefit my career. Someone that could provide guidance and share real-world experiences that a training class does not offer.
3. Let Your Voice Be Heard
Even though you may not have as much working experience as others, you have new, creative ideas and a different perspective that should be heard. Don't be intimidated by those that have been in the working world for years. Truth is, they could be intimidated by you.
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4. It's Ok to Make Mistakes
No one expects you to know everything, especially when you are new to a role or company. As long as your manager knows that you are trying, and, most importantly, learning from your mistakes, you will be a success. Repeat after me: perfectionism is unattainable.
5. Collaborate - Don't Compete
You are not the only one in your line of work and there's always going to be someone that has more experience. Why not collaborate and learn from them? Others have different experiences and ways of approaching situations or resolving issues. I'm sure that they can learn a lot from you as well!
So, what if I had followed my own advice back then? Perhaps I would have been able to move further up the ranks in the corporate world or start my business earlier. The truth is, I am thrilled with what I've accomplished over the years, even with all of the bumps in the road. I can't wait to find out what will happen in the next chapter of my career.
Veronica Thraen is the Owner and Principal Consultant at Maven Project Management, a technology project management consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona that helps growing organizations put processes and tools in place to keep projects on track for long-term growth and success.
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