Once you’ve started down your career path — whether you’re just on the road, or have already traveled long and hard — there are always times when you look back to the start and wonder how your decisions might have been different had you known something then, that you know now.
And while it’s tempting to say that looking back is a waste of time, putting some of those thoughts on paper can be a worthwhile exercise — especially if it helps someone at the start of a similar path think about things in a new light.
With that in mind, this week we asked the Glance team, “what’s the one thing you’d tell your younger self when you were just starting your career?”
Embrace the unknown (and uncertainty)
Mike Valenti: I always knew that my professional path wouldn’t be as clear cut as other traditional roles. I knew fairly early on that the scope of my interest was stretched pretty wide and that I would likely have to try a few different roles to filter out what I liked and didn’t like. This bit of uncertainty early on might not have provided the stability I wanted, but it opened the door to some incredible opportunities both personally and professionally that I needed.
The one thing I would reinforce to my younger self would be to just put yourself out there.
We all know that nothing ever worthwhile in life just falls into your lap, you have to go out, create your own opportunities and make it happen. I learned that I needed to keep my skills relevant and marketable, and to keep an open mind to opportunities and to cultivate a long-term vision of what I want my life to be. While it’s easy to say and tough to do, this is actually what served as my guiding principle in a field with so many different arteries that I didn’t know which one was right for me, or how I would fit in.
This mindset helped manifest some wild stories all across the spectrum of communications, with stops in film, TV, radio and digital marketing. It can be challenging to embrace the unknown and not let fear win, but you never know what lies on the other side of setting up a coffee with someone, or volunteering your time, or going back to school to reinvest skills in yourself or rolling the dice on a new job. There’s no risk in betting on yourself – but there’s a lot of risk with just playing it safe.
I would tell the 22-year-old version of me the same thing I would say to me at 75; go for it now, because the future is promised to no one..
Stay true to yourself, and learn from your choices
Julie Ford: I basically have three pieces of advice I’d offer my younger self as I started out in my career. These are rules that guide my career and life decisions to today.
- Be true to yourself.
- Embrace the journey.
- Chase opportunity (not money).
When I started my career, I had a good sense of what I wanted, but one of the first decisions I made, I didn’t make with “me” in mind — I chased a role that I thought would make me more money and look better on my resume, rather than a role that would make me happy — both in the short-term, in terms of what the role was and the people I’d be working with, and the long-term, in terms of setting me up for what I wanted in the future.
Along the same lines, my younger self didn’t know that making those mistakes is all part of the journey. I kicked myself for it, but recognize now that those choices I made, even if they weren’t the right ones, were important learning opportunities.
So I’d tell my younger self to stay true to herself as much as possible, and to look for opportunities rather than money — but to recognize that every choice offers an opportunity to learn something and make you a better person and professional.
Recognize the value of relationships
Josh Kern: Oh boy, where do I start!? There are so many things young Josh wasn’t prepared for in the real world. He could have used a lot of guidance!
One thing I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older and more experienced is the value of networking and building relationships. I didn’t think about this at all early in my career; I rarely went out of my way to really get to know people I worked with, and I didn’t really keep in touch with anyone after I left any of my early roles.
Today, my network is one of the things that I’m most proud of. It’s not huge, but, somehow I’ve managed to populate it with amazing people that I truly enjoy talking to, catching up with and learning from. I consider myself very fortunate to have forged these connections.
And when I say “value” of networking, I’m not talking about monetary value — although a network is of course great for helping you find new opportunities, and I’m grateful for the that my network has done that for me. I think, though, the real value is just in that human interaction with people. Hearing what challenges people are facing, what new things they’re doing, whether it’s in the same industry or field of interest as me or something completely different, is just a wonderful thing.
My network has made a better marketer and a better person. So I’d tell younger me to start fostering those relationships right away, so he can take advantage of everything a great network can offer.
- Considering a freelance career? Read “The Rise of the Freelance Economy.”
- If you’re looking to attract the right kind of attention to get on the right path, check out “How to Market Yourself on a Budget“
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