Last night, I was updating my resume (you never know when you’ll have to use it), when it dawned on me that I have almost a decade of professional experience. I was shocked. How could the years have gone by so quickly? How can I have been in the workforce so long and still feel like I don’t know anything most of the time (hello, impostor syndrome)?
But, the truth is, I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the years. They say there is no better teacher than experience, but many of these lessons would have been nice to know ahead of time. Below are three lessons I’ve learned that I pass along to you in the hopes that it can save you some anxiety and stress.
- You can change careers. After I graduated from law school, I had one single mission: practice law. I was unsure about whether it was truly the right job for me, but I had completed three of the hardest years of schooling of my life, had taken the dreaded bar exam, and was many, many dollars in debt. I was going to do what I had trained to do. As it turned out, practicing law wasn’t for me. I often laid awake at night feeling trapped and miserable. There seemed to be no way out. But, I was wrong. It took some networking, some hustle, and some encouragement from friends and family, but I was able to change my career, and I couldn’t be happier for it.
- Everybody is faking it. One of the scariest parts of walking into a courtroom when I was a young lawyer was that I felt that the older, more senior lawyers knew it all, while I knew nothing. I didn’t even know how to put my appearance on the record. As the years went on, I started to realize that even these seasoned pros didn’t know all the rules all the time. Sometimes, they just made things up as they went along. After I left practice and moved into a sales/relationship management role, I came across this phenomenon even more frequently – people who had more confidence than they did substance. Of course, there are true experts. People who come with a lifetime of experience and know their stuff. Take the time to learn from them. But what I’ve learned is that a lot of people are faking it a lot of the time. This always makes me feel a little better when I start to doubt my own abilities.
- It takes more than hard work to get noticed. I’ve always been a bit of a worker bee. I keep my head down, I work hard, and I love receiving praise for a job well done. This is all fine and dandy, except that it’s never really gotten me more than a solid performance review. What I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that there has never been a phrase more true than this: “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Relationships matter. A lot. You can be the best at what you do, but if nobody knows your name, you’re not likely to get far. I’ve taken this to heart and have really started to cultivate relationships and expand my network. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but I’ve already seen my efforts pay off. Start focusing on relationships early and don’t ever stop. You won’t regret it.
What are some things you wish you had known when you started your career?