Soon after my start in PR, I realized that a successful career for me in the industry wasn’t going to be via the account service tract. A few years, thanks to the right mentors who helped me create a role that fit my skill set, I found my path. Other requirements: a healthy dose of introspection, a deep understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses, and eventually settling into my own skin.
Unfortunately, our careers are all too often guided by traditional norms and expectations dictated by higher education and corporate structures. Even more concerning, we often define our success and self-worth through these predetermined paths that assume we all bring the same talents to the table. The inevitable outcome of this is that we are put into pre-set boxes and expected to perform and be satisfied along the way.
I don’t know about you, but that is not how I operate. So, if you’ve found an industry that you love, but haven’t yet found your way, here’s some advice from someone who’s been in the same place.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. You are unique, your career is unique, and everyone has their own path to success. The second you stop measuring yourself against your peers is the second you free yourself from useless self-inflicted pressure. Stay focused on doing your best work and uncovering your inner badass.
- Latch on to a few key mentors who believe in you. The greatest athletes in the world surround themselves with experts, because even the best need help. So many of us don’t leverage the mentors we have at our fingertips to get better. Find your mentors, be open to feedback, and develop the best version of you — no matter how long it takes.
- Reflect, identify, and test. Don’t waste your energy chasing the “jack of all trades”. It doesn’t exist, and one person can’t be great at everything. Take time early and often in your career to reflect on what you are good at and truly understand what brings you joy. Many of us chase what we think will get us ahead, which leads to bigger jobs with more pressure and more of the things we don’t like to do. When you find your sweet spot, be smart enough to recognize you’ve hit on something and seek out the roles and opportunities that allow you to scratch that itch.
- Learn to embrace the unknown. If you chase your passion and refuse to take the beaten path, you have to become comfortable with not knowing how it is all going to play out. Building the muscle memory to stay focused during any moments of doubt will ensure you don’t resort back to safety and miss out on the breakthrough that is almost certainly around the corner.
- Take a breath. Careers don’t form overnight. It’s a process of trial and error. Stopping to remind yourself of how lucky you are and how good life is, can help to calm those mid-20s anxieties. Try to enjoy the process and, remember, the tortoise won the race.
- Find your balance. We all need a place (physical or mental) where we are able to decompress, reflect, and remind ourselves about what’s important. For me, it’s the gym. For you, it might be the park, an art class, or just hanging out with friends and family. Making this time is crucial to building perspective and the endurance to persevere.
I know it’s hard, but at the end of the day, if nothing else, remember that you’ve got this. Start thinking about success based on how good you feel every morning when you get up and get going. The traditional path is boring. I dare you to be different.