by Sue Weston

5 important career (and life) lessons that need to be shared

Jul 23, 2018
CareersIT Skills

Self discovery is hard. It requires unconditional acceptance and discovering your passion. These life lessons helped me find the path to career fulfillment.

mentor teach learn office computer
Credit: Thinkstock

My journey to reinvent began one year ago. While each stage felt like an eternity…looking back the time flew by. I realized that I had slowly lost my sense of self. I defined myself by my family and employer at the expense of friends and hobbies. When in a blink of an eye my children had grown up and my job was gone, I was lost. Rediscovering myself is hard and involves learning unconditional acceptance (flaws included) and following my passion.  When my mother said, “learn to love yourself,” I never appreciated how difficult or valuable this advice was. (She was smarter than I realized).

I needed to understand my likes and dislikes, find space to grow, explore and to break the mold I had created. While I listened to advice from others, I recognized I was different and my new pattern needed to cater to me. I discovered that I needed routine, structure and to be busy. I adopted the adage, “Chose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’ve been writing, speaking and researching, focused on gender equity and diversity & inclusion – and it feels right. I began with one personal question – why me? (why was my career trajectory different than my male colleagues?). I discovered it was a common question in need of an answer. Women and men really do exhibit behavioral differences and simply recognizing these patterns can help others reach their potential. My mission became creating a brighter future by sharing what I learned – and the results have been amazing!  

Lesson no. 1: Try it, you might surprise yourself

Some people find it exciting and invigorating to step outside their comfort zone. And while that does not apply to me, I discovered that fearing the unknown and imagining what could go wrong held me back. Confirmation bias enables us to justify our fears because by believing something will be true it appears to be so. This happens because we fail to objectively collect information. For example, does the phone really ring more when you are in the bathroom or are you just more aware of it? Because I am learning to be open minded and began trying different things I discovered I am a talented writer and speaker. 

Lesson no. 2: Believe in yourself

It is difficult for me to objectively judge myself. I am amazed that people benefit from my experience. Part of the problem is that I set the bar too high and see only my faults. I also assume that if I can do something, anyone can do it too. I am learning from conversations with others that we are all uniquely talented, each with a different set of skills. By working together, we can produce greatness that could not be accomplished individually. 

Lesson no. 3: The grass is not greener

When I look at other people, they seem so self-assured. And it is only when they share their “stories” that I realize that we have similar insecurities and challenges. The grass is not greener on the other side, sometimes what other people have looks better, but it’s not. I have learned to be honest and transparent, airing my doubts and appreciating any assistance I receive. We all have different challenges, the trick is to learn to be happy with what you have, and not be envious. The ideal is to cheer on others and applaud their accomplishments rather than seeing them as competition. 

Lesson no. 4:  You can’t know – so don’t even try

Don’t overthink or wonder what others think. It is impossible to know what’s in another person’s mind and worrying only delays you from acting. To quote Dale Carnegie “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.” Trust your instinct, consider the risks (what’s the worst thing that could happen) and Just Do It!  Commit to a course of action and follow through.

Lesson no. 5: Own your destiny – you only live once

The leadership journey of 12 female CEOs identified behaviors these successful leaders shared. They all own their ambition, see themselves as leaders and develop the confidence to volunteer for and take stretch assignments (even before they felt ready). They take charge of a situation without expecting support from others and focus on long-term goals. This provides time, space and is empowering. And they self-promote… because if you don’t tell your story who will?

Most importantly, take the time to connect with yourself, discover what gives you joy. Become comfortable being yourself. This was the hardest lesson of all because it requires breaking established patterns. I went from working long hours for a large company to struggling to fill my day (which drove my family crazy). Now I am juggling multiple projects and exploring careers I had only fantasized about. I discovered that reality is so different than what I had imagined. Much that I thought was factual – was a product of my interpretation. I try to see everyday as a new adventure, with unlimited possibilities. I am learning to grow, laugh and follow my heart.