If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy figuring out what’s next for my career.
After months of deliberation (and more to come), here are five things I’ve learned so far…
1. Each person is unique and each person’s career path is unique. Both my husband and I are designated accountants. We went to universities in the same city, worked for similar-sized firms, and obtained our designations around the same time. With our similar backgrounds you’d think we’d be interchangeable – however our passions, interests and career views differ widely.
After years of passively judging each others’ career choices I’ve learned that we have different comfort zones, we are two different people, and we are pursuing careers that feel right to ourselves. I’m just doing me and he’s just doing him. While each of our career choices makes the other spouse feel uncomfortable there’s no reason for either person to change their career path – we need to focus on maintaining our family’s health and well-being first, respect each others’ decisions, and together co-ordinate how we manage both of our careers around our family.
2. There is no right way to do this. Vera Wang wrote about fashion and didn’t design her first wedding dress (her own) until she was 39. Julia Child worked in media & advertising before writing her first cook book at 50. Colonel Sanders was running a service station which also sold food, when he started selling his famous chicken at the age of 40.
Tiffany is a 31 year old accountant who has plenty of time to make her future success a reality – and while the path will likely look atypical, it really doesn’t matter.
3. Stop labelling 90% of your efforts as failures – the road to success has lots of twists & turns, but they all get you to your destination. Applying for a job and not getting it – not a failure. Approaching someone for a coffee chat and getting turned down – not a failure. Starting a side business and only getting a handful of jobs – not a failure. Highly successful people don’t see failure – they see opportunities to do something amazing and know that with every attempt they make (regardless of whether an outside person would define it as successful or not) they get closer to reaching their full potential.
4. Be candid with your support network. Trust them with your ambitions, welcome them to share their wisdom and accept any help they can give along the way. First, please note the term used – “support network”. Not “your closest friends and family”. While we would love for those to be one and the same, it’s possible they’re not – which sucks but is reality.
I am so blessed to have intelligent, open-minded friends who listen, ask probing questions and graciously offer their wisdom & resources to me. I’m learning to surround myself with people who encourage me to be the best person (mother/woman/careerwoman) I can be and to be wise about what I share with the people who encourage me to be the safest or most risk-averse person I can be. While their intentions are good, it’s heart-breaking to have a “dream crusher” who focuses on money and “job security” (which I don’t actually believe exists) project their fears onto you and convince you that you’ll fail at anything that’s not safe or traditional. Know your self-worth, don’t apologize for your confidence, and spend time with those who bring you up, not tear you down.
5. Do one thing a day that scares you. I’ll go out and admit it – I am scared of talking in front of groups of people larger than 3. I want to be this confident, outspoken, value-adding employee at meetings but often clam up for fear of looking incompetent or asking a stupid question.
But it’s not just at work. I’m too scared to even walk to the front of our church and share a prayer (with a congregation of less than 200). I mean – it’s a prayer……………in church. It’s like the least likely place you should feel judged! So one Sunday I had a very sincere prayer for a friend, made myself go up and say it, and was so proud for pushing myself out of my comfort zone. My new mantra is “Forever young, forever learning.” Keep pushing your boundaries to embrace new experiences and grow as a person.
The career journey continues (and, realistically, will do so for the next 30+years).
This is just the beginning, my friend.
I’m happy that my perspectives on failure and other people’s opinions are changing. I’m thankful that I have a great support network (with some friends I’ve known since high school). I’m hopeful that I stay the course of pursuing great learning opportunities, maintain the momentum I’ve created, and don’t fall into the trap of worrying what others think.