Ten years ago, I was in an entry-level receptionist position with little idea of what career success would look like, or what my goals should be. I wasted a ton of time worrying about what I was doing with my life and feeling downtrodden about the fact that I’d “wasted” four years in college in the “wrong field”.
And although it was a decade ago, I still remember with clarity what it felt like to be a young professional trying to figure out what the heck they’re doing.
If you can relate, maybe you will benefit from these 7 things I learned after 10+ years into my trek for career success.
I certainly wish I could go back and tell myself these things!
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1. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want yet
It really is, I promise.
Not knowing what I wanted in my career was a huge source of stress for me. I felt like I had just settled for the first salaried job I could find because I didn’t know what else to do.
I wish I could go back and tell that girl, RELAX!
I’d wager that very few of us have the luxury of knowing exactly what we want to do with our lives right out of college. There are some lucky people who figure out (or fall into) the perfect career path right away and know exactly what they’re doing. (At least I think there are some lucky people like that? I can’t say I’ve really met any.)
For the rest of us, all we can do is just pick a direction using the best judgment we can, and start walking.
You will figure it out as you go. Honest!
2. It’s also okay to start at the bottom
I might catch some flack for this, but on the whole, we Millennials (and now even the Gen Zers) tend to feel like there is something shameful about holding a low-wage job.
My limited experience in the workforce prior to graduating college left me feeling that I’d be lucky to hold down any kind of job for a long time. So I was extremely grateful for landing that first salaried job answering the phones at the front desk.
But I also felt a little bit ashamed. As though by accepting a low-paying job, that somehow meant I would never qualify for anything better.
But entry-level jobs are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I think people who start at the bottom have a leg up over those who are fortunate enough to land a higher paying job straight out of school.
Because no one works harder or appreciates career success more than someone who started from the bottom.
3. Everything you’re doing now is beneficial, even the stuff you fail at
This is so important. Everything you’re doing now is helping your professional growth. You may not see how collating and stapling thousands of papers or getting yelled at by customers is doing that, but it is.
Experience can sometimes be a subtle teacher, but one day you’ll look back at your time spent in your job(s) and see how it made you into the person you are today.
I think back to some of my most difficult days in the office; days when I made mistakes that cost the company thousands of dollars. Days when I felt like a failure and spent my breaks holed up in the ladies’ washroom stall, trying (and failing) to regain my composure.
I think of those days, and I feel grateful for them.
Because it was all valuable experience and built resilience. Without them, I wouldn’t be prepared for this current phase in my career.
Other skills like customer service, organization, and problem-solving are so crucial and for me and what I do. But they only developed through years of checking in at the office every day.
4. You will need to take a leap of faith from time to time
The problem with a desk job is, it’s super predictable. And I like predictable. I mean, who doesn’t? Although it can get mundane, many of us find more advantages than disadvantages to knowing exactly what to expect from the moment you wake up.
I definitely fell into the complacency trap when I was in my twenties and stayed much longer than I should have at my old job. Although it was a great first job and I gained many opportunities and skills there, it was time to move on long before I actually did.
It’s terrifying to leave something that feels certain, but if you don’t push the envelope every once in a while, You. Will. Stagnate.
5. Money really isn’t everything
When I first graduated from college, money was everything. It was all I could think about. Because I didn’t have enough, and I didn’t know how to get more of it.
My mindset was that I didn’t care how much responsibility I had between 9-5, or what my role within the company was, so long as I was earning as much as possible.
In that phase of my life, this goal was okay. It pushed me to stand out to my superiors and helped me get promoted to higher-paying positions.
But around 6+ years in, I started worrying about something else:
Because I didn’t have enough, and I didn’t know how I could get more of it.
The biggest problem was, of course, my commute. In rush hour traffic, it was taking me the better part of two hours each way, and it was making me miserable. I found a job closer to home for the same pay, but my quality of life became 100 times better.
And work-life balance continues to become more and more important the older I get. If nothing else, remember that money is a renewable resource.
But your time isn’t.
6. Your mindset matters more than you think it does
I definitely had a scarcity mindset when it came to making money. I didn’t think there were enough jobs to go around, and even if there were, I didn’t have the confidence to compete for them.
As a result, it took me a long time to understand my value as a professional. And the truth is, other people will only value you as much as I value yourself.
And as you learn more skills, your value increases. You can always learn new skills. (Something that’s easier than ever with e-learning sites like Skillshare!) You can always grow. You’re only limited by what you tell yourself you can and can’t do.
7. Your career success will surprise you
If you are serious about finding your own career success, and you bring forth your best effort each day, you will achieve some amazing things. Just keep in mind that you may not end up exactly where you think you will. But that’s okay too because it will be better than what you’d imagined!
10+ years later and I’m still growing and learning every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Where are you on your career journey? Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned professional, I want to hear about it! Drop a comment below!