A Lesson on STARTING and Making the Most of EVERY Experience
Usually, when I visit my hairdresser, my mind roams at a million miles per hour. Whenever I am in my zone or my element, I am usually thinking about a million things at once, from aspirations to goals I would like to achieve, or I usually use those moments in between washing and styling my hair to reflect.
This particular Saturday, I reflected on a few things, one of which was most profound to me, namely the importance of starting somewhere.
I have reflected on my journey many times before, especially as it relates to my career, but this particular day, my mind raced back to the beginning of my journey as a young career woman.
As I sat there, I observed a 20-something-year-old who was doing little chores around the shop. As an assistant, she was responsible for sweeping the floor, assisting hairdressers and any other task was asked to do. Her attitude didn’t strike me as that of someone who really wanted to do it; she seemed a bit disinterested (don’t get me wrong, I might be misjudging her, but her body language spoke volumes) as if she didn’t really want to do what she was being asked to do.
My mind then shifted to when I got my first job after undergrad school. I was sitting at home six months prior to getting a job and spent another six months as a non-paid intern before I got my first ‘real’ job. As an intern, I didn’t have my own desk space or computer. My six months as an intern meant I had to ‘shack up’ in the office of a co-worker who was kind enough to share his space. To get all my tasks done, I resorted to using my personal computer, which didn’t seem like a major issue to me, because that’s how badly I wanted to be there to garner any experience I could get. The work environment wasn’t always a thrilling one; there were days I was disinterested in doing tasks I considered boring, monotonous and out of the scope of what I really wanted to do. In fact, I wanted to do the big stuff (after all, I went to university for this, right?).
I remember how badly I wanted to move up, to get my own desk space, possibly my own office and do the ‘big stuff’. My internship experience taught me the realities of life — that the road to success is not going to be the pipeline dream many of us hope for. I learned about office politics, standing up for myself, working on my strengths and standing apart from others — it took my other job opportunities to help me to realize that I had actually learned all those things from my internship experience.
FIND VALUE IN EVERY EXPERIENCE
Long story short, it was thanks to my internship and then a nine-month contract job that I hit my current job. I guess those days of being humble and focused paid off. I moved from sharing a desk space to having my own desk with a few added benefits that made my work life more satisfactory. While I wasn’t where I envision myself to be — after all, I am still on my journey. I am in a temporary acting position, working my way to the top while being challenged with other tasks that are setting me up for a greater and bigger position. And yes, I am still doing monotonous job tasks that I am not always fond of doing, but I have realized that in every given experience is preparing me for my victory.
I remember being an intern and complaining to the office attendant (whom I had grown close to and admired) who would always remind me that my ‘aha moment’ was coming. It was her who reminded me that even though I thought I should be achieving more for my age, I have already achieved a lot and I should be grateful for given opportunities and my growth. She also encouraged and reminded me to make use of my opportunities and work towards my goals because everyone has to start somewhere.
Here are a few things I learned about starting somewhere and helped me to change my approach to life
1. Every experience is valuable
There were some things that I was doing as an intern that I considered menial and monotonous that I didn’t necessarily like doing but they provided the breaking ground for me to get my current job. These same ‘non-relevant tasks’ provided that knowledge that I am now applying to my current post, which has helped me tremendously. Katrice of My Vicarious Life also shares how every job position has made her who she is today.
2. Stay focused on your goals
You may not be where you want to be but look at the bigger picture. Where do you see yourself in the next 5–10 years? What do want to achieve? What do you envision for your life? Use every opportunity and experience as a stepping stone to reach where you want to be. Don’t take your eyes off the bigger picture and don’t wallow in the state of feeling sorry for yourself and your situation; you are a victor, not a victim.
Use every opportunity and experience as a stepping stone to reach where you want to be.
3. Don’t take your opportunities for granted
Just because you may see the tasks that you are doing now as minimal or below your standards, never use that as an opportunity to undermine your tasks and what you are doing. Most of those successful women who you admire and see as a role model had to start from the bottom of the ladder. They didn’t just graduate from university and score a CEO post; they had to work their butts off and often times they did jobs they probably didn’t enjoy.
Choose to find value in every opportunity and experience, which can help you to build and propel you into a greater position.
Never think you are above any of the tasks you are doing, and remember the importance of doing your best work. Your current supervisor or boss is looking at how you make the best of your situation — don’t set yourself up for failure by undermining your current situation, which is only meant to strengthen you for that dream job.
4. Stick close to those who believe in you
I had one particular co-worker who taught me many things that others didn’t have the time to — in other words, he taught me the ‘ropes’. It was also the then office attendant (who has now grown in her own professional life and is studying in accounting) who encouraged me in the daunting moments, especially when I thought about quitting.
Stay close to those who are willing to teach you and pull you up the ladder with them. It was my former supervisor and now co-worker who batted for me to get the promotion from job to job.
The truth is, not everyone will be willing to pull you up, so be on the lookout for the authentic people.
What was the thing you started to kick start your career? And what lessons did you learn on starting where you are?
Thanks for reading. You may catch me on Twitter at @mscareylee.