“The five things I wish I was told earlier in my career” – This is kind of session I held with our interns and “Early-in-Career” talents recently at my company. Very exciting exchange, as it also led me to reflect on some of the lessons I learned throughout my own journey and that I felt could be, somehow, of value.
And this is also the kind of session where you equally learn from their own perspective and the discussions we have had !
So here you go, here are the 5 things I wish I was told earlier in my career that I shared with our “Early in Career” (By the way, shameless plug, I expand a lot more on a couple of them in the book I released exactly a year ago, “The Ascending Organization”).
1. Understand what your strengths really are, and cultivate them to elevate you to your unique brilliance – That will get you to do things at which you genuinely excel, and get you excited when doing them. As a result, you will start to attract more opportunities (or even jobs) to leverage those strengths. Virtuous cycle, but which starts with you being aware of your real strengths (not always as easy as it sounds :))
Kind of related to it, cultivate and take care of what brings you passion and joy. That could be in your job, or as part of your job, or outside of work. But it is important so that you can be more enthusiastic and fulfilled as you perform your job, and as a result , become simply better at what you do.
2. Think Broader than the job you are get paid for
For instance, in case you see a “tension”, that is, a gap between what is and what should be, how likely are you going to do something about it ? Or even just raise it ?
Successful people, I have seen, are those that are willing (even seeking) to go beyond what they are just supposed to do. And are always curious, for instance, about their own management chain’s broader set of challenges. And in my example above, are the ones who not only “sense” tensions, but do something about them. Which brings me to the third “lesson” …
3. Do not be afraid to stretch yourself and seek challenges. Embrace change.
Personally, these were the times when I ended up learning and progressing the most (either personally, or in my career, or both). You will know when you stretch yourself because this is usually when you start to get slightly anxious and uncomfortable , and yet, deep inside, you still want to do it. Then, the choice is yours: you can either resist it or embrace the change and challenges. The good news is that the reward can be immense on many different levels. Every time I have said “yes”, and went beyond fear and discomfort, overcoming resistance and the challenges I faced, I learned so much by stepping forward that what seemed “difficult” in the first place ultimately became new skills.
4. Keep learning, and develop a growth mindset.
This is key. Do that all the time. What do you want to become better at ? Or explore ? Or master ? I have always sought ways to learn and educate myself, life is just so much juicier! An Executive MBA, a Coach certification, Holacracy accreditation, personal development “practices”, … Could be anything, hard or soft skills. And I am just mentioning a few that are work related, but could equally be outside of work.
And by the way, a related “lesson”, so to speak … this is your/our job! While you may rely on your own manager and the organisation to provide those growth and learning opportunities, I would argue that taking care of your own development plan and assessing how you want to develop yourself is your job 100% ! (again, easier said than done). Managers and leaders can guide you and coach you, and offer their perspective, but in the end, this should be your responsibility. More generally speaking, develop a growth mindset as much as possible through (discussed above) new challenges and embracing new opportunities, for instance.
5. The “How” matters
As discussed in “The Ascending Organization” book, I could summarize leadership down to 3 things:
1. Leaders get things down and get results
2. Leaders are agents of change
3. By inspiring the people they touch through authenticity and trust
(You might think : wait a minute, I could add about ten other things to that (short) list ! and they would undoubtedly be “right” too! but those 3 have been my own experience as a leader and in working with many other leaders, at work or outside of work)
The “How” you do things matters because I believe that in order to achieve 1. and 2., getting things down and results and driving change, it all starts with 3.
We rarely look at it this way. Instead, we mostly focus on the outcome (dollars, growth, market share wins…) as opposed to the qualities leaders need to embody to get to this results. Therefore, think about how you do things, interact with others, collaborate, nurture an environment of trust and safety … Rest is very likely to unfold from there.
Ps: And you, what would you have shared in a similar session ?