You’ve been in the work world long enough to have experienced the ups and downs. What if you had the opportunity to go back in time and visit your younger self? What would you say? What advice would you give your younger self?
Not an easy question, is it?
Exercise: Advice to My Younger Self
I tried this out with a colleague. We limited ourselves to 10 items and 20 minutes of writing.
Give it a try. If you like to ponder, research and get things right, it will be a challenge (it was for me!) I’m sharing my results to encourage you to at least try the exercise. You may discover a few gems. Maybe it will be something you still want to work on. Maybe it’s something you’ll tell your children. Or maybe you’ll just laugh.
10 Things I’d Tell My Younger Self
1. Save more. Looking back at my spending on clothes, entertainment, and other ‘stuff’ that didn’t provide me with all that much joy, I wonder what my retirement would look like now if I had just put that money away.
2. Brag more. At almost every turn in my career I ran into the gap between humble women on one end and bragging men on the other. It appeared the bragging men were often given the better opportunities. Not always because they were better, but they were heard more often and in the right situations. Which leads me to my next piece of advice.
3. Speak up. I was a timid girl and grew into a less timid woman but I can remember many opportunities when I did not promote my ideas, recommend solutions, or share observations that may have benefited the company as well as myself. Learning this earlier in my career would have helped move me forward more quickly.
4. Recognize and use your strengths. Nowadays I work with leaders and indie professionals around the world and one thing is clear: we all need to recognize our strengths and tap into them sooner in our careers. It’s an everyday event for me now, but in my early career I didn’t understand the idea of strengths nor the benefit of focusing on them instead of trying to fix what was wrong. I often just accepted that I was not good at something which deflated my confidence instead of tapping into a strength and making me stronger.
5. Ask for what you need and want. Along with speaking up in general, I would tell my younger self to ask for more of what I needed to be successful and for what I deserved as benefits and pay. Often I simply accepted the limitations provided by salary guidelines or corporate benefit packages. Little did I know that everything is negotiable.
6. Ask more questions. It’s amazing what power questions have in the world of business. If I had known how to ask powerful questions in my early years, I would have had more influence, impact, and confidence. I would also have a better understanding of people and business. Of all the things in this list, asking better and more questions is by far the most powerful.
7. Network more, party less. With the influx of cash at my first office job, I spent a lot of time enjoying the rewards of my work. Time at the beach, dancing, shopping at lunchtime with friends. My mindset was that of an hourly worker paid to do a job, not that of a career minded professional. Eventually I realized the value of networking and building relationships, I would have liked to learnt that lesson a little earlier.
8. Learn how to sell. Being a sales person was a negative thing in my mind during my initial years. Not anymore! Whether it’s selling ideas to your boss or services and products to customers, selling skills are essential. As with many skills it takes time to build up the confidence and techniques to become comfortable and successful. Learning this earlier would have benefited me in many ways.
9. Get a mentor/coach with every position. Building a trusting relationship with someone who truly has your best career interest in mind is priceless. Though I had many strong mangers in my career, having a mentor/coach outside of that immediate manager-employee relationship would have been an accelerator for growth.
10. Learn to say no. Though this relates as much to personal decisions as it does business, learning to say not to things that are not a ‘hell yes’ is a skill I value even today. Of course I have much more freedom today as an indie professional, having built the experience of saying no and accepting the results would have made it easier.
11.It’s ok to break the rules sometimes! Appropriate that this item is number 11 in a list that was supposed to be 10. I grew up trained to follow the rules and was afraid of the consequences of breaking them. That’s important for a child, but as we get into the business world (especially now) it’s the rule breakers that break from the crowd and innovate.
BACK TO YOU
What were you thinking as you read through this list? How many of these would be the same on your list? Are you wiling to make a change right now? What are you ready to do to make it so?