5 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier in my Career

1. Everyone you meet could open a door for you someday.

Throughout my career, doors were opened or blocked because of people I’d met along the way. You’d be surprised how small your industry really is—and how far word travels. Decisions I made, the attitude I projected, and the work ethic I exhibited at a part time job in my teens affected my career 15+ years later. It’s amazing how many people’s paths I have crossed multiple times in my career, at different companies, and even in different industries.  I have received recommendations from people I hadn’t worked with in over a decade. Every single person you meet has the potential to open doors for you in the near future or distant. Be careful to never burn a bridge.

2. Don’t be afraid to speak up or standout.

Contrary to many people’s instincts, don’t be afraid to speak up or stand out. In high school, many of us are scared  of standing out. You don’t want to be considered different or weird. But in your career, it’s the opposite! It’s totally imperative to stand out if you want to get ahead! Your thoughts and ideas are valuable and can truly impact your business. If you have an idea, or if you found a way to improve efficiencies, speak up! Of course, you should try to use data to support your claims, and use real experience to validate them. But, speaking up will help you be viewed as a valuable contributor, and help you stand out among your peers. Don’t just be a worker bee; be a leader at any level in your career.

3. Examine your career path regularly, and if you’re not happy, change it!

It’s important to regularly reflect on your career path. Are you happy in your career? Do you feel challenged in your role? Are you valued by your employer? Do you have good benefits? If you are not happy in your career, you are only selling yourself short. There are millions of job opportunities out there, and there’s no reason to ever settle. If you find a job that you truly enjoy, it won’t feel so burdensome to work 40+ hours a week. The workday is such a big chunk of your life, and life is too short to be unhappy in your career. Plus, you will find yourself performing much better when you actually enjoy your work.

4. Say “Yes” to things that scare you.

The best way to grow in your career is to accept challenges that scare you. If you’re afraid to complete a task at work, then that’s when you should take it head on. One of my biggest fears early in my career was public speaking. However, the more I said “yes” to presenting, the better I became at it. Now I present in front of groups of 500+ people with ease and without fear. If you’d told me 15 years ago that I would someday lead a meeting that large, I would have probably had a panic attack. But, when you say “yes” to things that scare you, you gain confidence to grow. You will be surprised at what you CAN do that you once thought you couldn’t.

5. Confidence will go a LONG way, and so will humility.

When you “fake it ‘til you make it,” you’d be surprised how far you can go. People listen and respond to confident people. Believe in yourself, or no one else will. Be confident in your strengths and abilities. One thing I often tell myself when I feel un-confident is, “If ANYONE can do this, I can.” I know that I am in control of how hard I work, and with confidence and hard work, I am unstoppable. At the same token, it’s important to show humility and be humble. Over-confidence can be a real turn-off. Always admit when you have made a mistake or when you don’t know something. Then, show confidence in your ability to learn and to not make the same mistake twice.