5 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Beginning my Career

Person writing lessons learned

By: Megan Jones

When you first start your career, it can be an overwhelming experience filled with professional and personal life lessons. Although I am new to my career and have a plethora of lessons to learn, the lessons I have learned thus far are immeasurable. These lessons are shaping me into who I want to be and how I want to be perceived in my professional personal brand. Last week, we talked about the Importance of Having a Mentor, and your mentor is a great guide and teacher for lessons in your career. However, you don’t need to have, or be a mentor to take the time to reflect on lessons that you have learned throughout your career. Today as I discuss the 5 lessons I’ve learned since beginning my career, consider reflecting on your lessons, or asking your reports about what they have learned!

Be Kind and Stay Strong

Being kind never goes out of style, and it is applicable in every field. This one can highly elevate your personal brand. I pride myself in being someone my colleagues and clients feel comfortable with. Moreover, I have become a resource of knowledge for others in my department. Being kind goes far, and keeping it cordial with your colleagues no matter the circumstance can go a long way. This supportive behavior can be the difference between receiving that promotion or not.

Being kind is a balancing act and this need to be balanced with standing your ground. Regardless, of your position you are not a welcome mat. Sometimes kindness can lend itself to be taken advantage of, as others may task with things that they suspect you will do because you are kind. Finding this balance is critical. You are not less kind for sticking your ground and setting professional work boundaries. Examples of setting boundaries are: knowing your bandwidth and informing the proper parties that you cannot take on more, having a work-life balance, or dividing projects evenly with your colleagues so each party contributes and receives the recognition they deserve for their work.

Join or Create Employee Networks

If you are looking to build your career within your company, consider expanding your visibility. To do this, consider joining or creating employee networks. It can be as easy as starting a book club with your colleagues or finding a common interest or cause and creating a network. This allows you to meet other colleagues that are outside of your department. If that isn’t feasible within your department, try eating lunch with someone new, or welcome a new hire into your lunch group. If you work remotely consider asking your manager to have virtual “happy hour” where you can do ice breakers such as “get to know your bingo” or use break out rooms to get to your colleagues in a smaller setting. There is either opportunity with your organization or your initiative to make one!

Taking Initiative

Tying to the last point, if something is missing in your organization, take initiative and make it happen. You may not be able to see it all the way through but bring it to the attention of your manager. If you have a solution, propose it. Take initiative for networking opportunities or blind spots in processes or projects. Even if nothing comes of it, your input is valued regardless of your positional hierarchy. If you have something to say—say it. Managers will and do appreciate their team members’ ideas and noticing areas of improvement shows that you are engaged in your position. Managers may not see or interact as much with a process as you do, so take the initiative to streamline it.

Dress for the Job you Want

Regardless of dress code ensure you dress appropriately for your position. I work in an environment that tends to be business casual. Therefore, I tend to dress more on the business professional side. Your appearance does matter and can have an effect on how others perceive you. Being more formally dressed can go along way in showcasing to your organization that you take your job seriously. Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to be nicely dressed. In the beginning of my career, I purchased the staples, two pairs of slacks, a few neutral blouses, a blazer, and formal shoes. Furthermore, skip the department store prices and consider looking at discount stores. I have found plenty of great options (even name brand clothing) at stores such as TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshalls. If you are looking for an even better deal, try thrift shopping. I have found wonderful staple and unique pieces just from thrift shopping. It is another great way to get great options at a fraction of department store prices.

Mistakes Happen

You are bound to make a mistake, be late once, or miss a deadline. First, remember this happens to everyone (don’t make it a habit), but it is okay to make a mistake. Second, when you make a mistake—own it. Then inform the proper parties. If you have a solution, come to your manager with it. Consider your mistake a learning experience, mistakes are how we learn. Don’t be too hard on yourself, in my experience, anxiety can perpetuate further mistakes. Although it is easier said than done, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and work towards fixing the mistake.

BONUS: Believe in Yourself

In the beginning of my career, I had to fight imposter syndrome (thinking that I didn’t belong or wasn’t qualified to be here). However, you received this job offer for a reason, your manager and organization believed in you, so believe in yourself. Moreover, it is important to be a team player and help out, however, you don’t have to overextend yourself to prove your worth. Take on what you can and again remember to set boundaries, so you don’t burn yourself out.  

I have a lot more to learn, but having learned these lessons, only makes me stronger professionally. I hope this reminds you of what a strong and competent employee you are. Consider reflecting on some of the important lessons you have learned. It can be a great topic of discussion at your next meeting or just a personal reminder of what a wonderful employee you are.

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