I recently started a career development course at work and had to answer a number of initial ice breaker questions. The question that really stumped me was when we were asked what career advice would we give to our younger self?
For me this was a tricky one because the initial thought that came into my head was "be more selfish" followed by "be braver". Being braver and more selfish means you take more risks which could lead to both failure or a massive win but either way you are living your life on your terms. Let's be clear I'm no Mother Theresa and putting myself first is something I'm still working on. I had my kids relatively young and had have significant caring responsibilities for other family members for most of my childhood and adult life. These two factors have combined to limit my focus on myself. With a change in my circumstances and my children growing older I have realized that in order to be the best me that I can be I need to be more selfish and this is allowing me to take more chances, and most of the time the outcome is actually positive. Would I have been able to be as selfish and brave as I am now when I was in my 20's -- probably not -- but I think I could have been more selfish and braver.
The third bit of advice I'd like to give my younger self is to value my strengths more. I have a high level of emotional intelligence and have a pretty good set of people skills but I didn't really value them until I got into my late 30's. It took over 15 years for me to realize that it's not just what you know but how you tell it. What I mean is that being able to give insight and 'storytell' is just as valuable as having detailed technical knowledge. Not knowing this when I was younger led to me undervaluing myself and miss opportunities where these skills would have been invaluable
The last piece of advise is around the power of the network. It is only as I head into my 40's I realize that developing a personal board of directors is a vital skill in the workplace and that the way to find such a board is through networking. When my children were younger I made an active choice not to engage in extra-curricular activities after work, in part due to my personal circumstances and in part because of my fear of being seen as being selfish, wanting more than what I had. I would tell my younger self that developing a strategic network of support is the most powerful thing you can do to build up your personal brand.
So to my younger self I say three things; be brave, be powerful and above all be selfish....
All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.