Embrace the flow, advocate for yourself, don’t worry about others’ opinions, and more pearls of career plan wisdom
Ever get stuck when working on a project? As I think of new topics for Workplace Matters articles each month while juggling other projects, I sometimes get stuck. That was the case for this month’s edition. When I mentioned this to my brilliant colleague, Tiffany Vojnovski (eLearning Industry trailblazer, bird enthusiast, writer/poet, and the Waldorf to my Statler), she encouraged me to reach out to my LinkedIn network. She’s said they’d know what to do. And, per usual, she was right. Add this to the list of the benefits of a work bestie.
So, I decided to shake things up a bit and reach out to my network on LinkedIn. I set up virtual coffee meetings to talk to some connections about their employee experience journeys and how they got to where they are today.
From this open-ended curiosity, a topic for this article was born: What’s the career advice you’d give yourself when you were first starting your professional journey?
And from those agenda-less, open conversations, as well as a simple question posted on LinkedIn, the following themes of career advice emerged:
#1: Embrace the Flow in Your Career Plan
A common theme among respondents was to be okay with the unknown in their career journeys. When you first build your career path, you may think that you have to have it all figured out or have a 5 or 10-year career plan. But looking back, many of us are thankful for the open-ended, unstructured path.
Jordan Hopkins would advise his younger self: “Don’t fear the squiggle! Not every career path is a straight line from A to B.”
Danielle LeGare would give her younger self the following career advice: “It might take 10 years to get to the one year that’s going to change your career trajectory for the better—and that’s okay. Be patient. It’s going to work out. In the meantime, keep building your skill set however you can.”
Doug Belding has a fascinating career journey, which includes experience in animation, advertising, and media. We connected and spoke about his career journey, which includes roles as an Art Director, Chief Creative Officer, and currently, Creative Solutions Leader. An artist to the core, he kept an open-minded approach to his career and was open to opportunities, which led him to his current position.
Today, he leverages his creativity, artistry, and leadership in his work. He uses that same laid-back approach in his human-centered, “chill leadership” style, as he describes it, which focuses on authentic connection and appreciation for his teammates.
#2: Listen to Your Heart
The iconic rock band Roxette famously encouraged us to listen to our hearts in the late ‘80s. That catchy advice works when it comes to your career plan too!
Sara Olsen would tell her younger self: “Do what makes you feel alive. Make sure you enjoy your work.”
Aldémar Duarte echoed that sentiment: “Follow your heart, find something that makes you feel you are doing a hobby, not a task.
And remember, your passion when you’re 22 may not be the same passion when you’re 40 or 60. Be open to the evolution of your personal journey as it intertwines with your employee experience journey.
As John Cleave would advise his younger self: “Realize that your passions (and dislikes) will change over time.”
Need some inspiration to tap into your career passion? Here are some ways to do what you love, according to motivational speaker Tony Robbins. With more than 40% of the workforce experiencing worker burnout, doing what you love—or at least learning to love what you do—can combat burnout and bring fulfillment on your career journey.
#3: Don’t Worry About O. P. O. (Other People’s Opinions)
Have you stopped yourself from achieving your career dreams because of how you thought family, friends, or coworkers would react? How has that impacted your career or life? The opinions (whether real or perceived) of others can sometimes hold us back. Fear of judgment can stop us from showing up how we want to.
Hillary Miller would advise her younger self: “No one is thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are, and (…) what others think about you is truly none of your business.
Cassandra Dennis said: “Don’t take loved ones’ opinions and limited exposure to the world as gospel. Achieve your objectives in silence and let the results be an example for them.”
This may be easier said than done. Want concrete ways to shift your thinking away from the approval of others? Here are 6 ways to stop listening to other people’s opinions, according to Chief Purpose Officer at Calm, Jay Shetty. The constant need for approval can limit you in your career journey (and life). It’s a slippery slope.
#4: Advocate for What You Want
Ever feel like you didn’t stick up for yourself? You’re not alone. This is common in the workplace. Rachel Druckenmiller, a keynote speaker who sings, found this out when she surveyed 100 women about their career paths. She also gave similar career advice to her younger self.
Christina Dyer would tell her younger self: “Figure out how to balance your personal and professional life according to your own values instead of doing what society says you should, especially as a young mother.”
Ann Cathers would advise her younger self: “If you don’t A-S-K, you are not going to G-E-T.”
What is self-advocacy, anyway? According to this BetterUp article: “Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up on your behalf effectively. You might do this to bring about positive results in any of the various contexts in which you interact—whether at work, in organizations, school, community, or family.”
Clare Dygert would tell her younger self: “You deserve more.”
Along with these powerful reminders, here are some helpful ways to advocate for yourself in the workplace, according to Forbes
#5: You Belong
Think about a time when you felt like you really belonged to a group. Wonderful feeling, isn’t it?
Dané Johnson would advise her younger self: “You have as much right to be in the rooms you find yourself in as everyone else there.
Hear, hear! That feeling of belonging can be elusive for many professionals on their career journeys.
What is it, exactly? According to Great Place to Work, belonging is “an accumulation of day-to-day experiences that enables a person to feel safe and bring their full, unique self to work.”
Thankfully, belonging in the workplace is becoming essential, as more employees—particularly Gen Z—are expecting/demanding it.
#6: Remember to Connect with Yourself on Your Career Journey
When you quiet the noise and distractions around you, you’d be surprised at how much wisdom you have within you.
Robert Jackson would advise his younger self: “Stop trying to prove yourself…focus on being. Being will always show the best in you.
The answer is always there within you if you take the time to silence the noise and listen. Whether through coaching, meditation, yoga, journaling, or quiet solitude without distractions. As tired as you may be of hearing these solutions, they work! These techniques help with your career and ultimately benefit your organization.
Aetna, for example, implemented a mindfulness program, and as a result, employees gained 62 minutes of productivity (resulting in savings of $3,000 per employee for the organization). It’s a win-win!
Career Advice for the Present
It’s Never Too Late to Design the Career Path You Want
The reality is that we don’t need (or have) a time machine…yet. We can always give our present selves advice or seek out ways to improve things. Whether you’re just starting out in your career, been in it for a while (or somewhere in between), we’re always learning.
Charbel Simon—a founder/entrepreneur whose career path includes stints at tech juggernauts Google, LinkedIn, and Yahoo and high-growth startups—told me: “It’s never too late to design your life. Always pause, take stock, and be thoughtful about where you are and where you want to go. Find the intersection of your passions and experience. You don’t have to make a U-turn, but [you] can change lanes if you need.
This hit home for me as someone that has tried to find the right balance between following my heart and responsibility throughout my career journey. As Charbel told me, there’s a nuance between following your passion and going the “practical” route. It doesn’t have to be one (your passion) or the other (responsibility).
Build Your Community (and Tap into It)
Moe Ash, a learning and gamification enthusiast based in Cairo, Egypt, facilitates and speaks all around the world, including the upcoming ATD Conference. When we spoke about his career journey, he revealed that he’s an introvert.
Wait, introverts can be incredible speakers?! You bet! Moe explained that while introversion is his preference, he leverages the skill of public speaking—two totally separate things. Activities like listening to Led Zeppelin by himself help him recharge his social battery after public speaking.
Moe saw the power of this skill in college with a stint in Model UN. It’s helped him break barriers and build communities, which is now his life’s work. In addition to his speaking and training engagements, he’s also the founder of The Catalyst, an instructional design consultancy, and he continues to build his personal network through genuine connections around the globe.
An invitation: While it may feel “cringe” (as the kids say) to put yourself out there on LinkedIn, it’s a great way to create and nurture relationships, even if you’re an introvert! Suggest a virtual coffee with one of your professional connections. When was the last time you set up some time with a former work BFF to say “hey” and have a chuckle about the old days? Embrace the cringe.
Let’s face it, for us remote employees, LinkedIn is one of the major places to network. So why not reach out to someone you could learn from who could equally learn from you? While we are all on our own unique career journeys, we can help each other by sharing career lessons learned and creating connections with others on different career paths.
My career lesson learned: Reach out to others in your community. As this New York Times piece points out, we are all dependent on each other, as much as we may resist it.
This article is proof of the power of reaching out to your network for career advice and creative inspiration! Thank you to everyone who responded to my inquiries and co-created this article with me.
And make sure you sign up for the Workplace Matters series if you haven’t already, which includes:
- Love, Reflection, and the Employee Experience
- Lessons from Children’s Books on the Workplace & Employee Experience
- Top 10 Songs About Work and the Employee Experience
- Top 10 Movies/Shows About the Workplace
- Changes in the Workplace and What’s Ahead
- 12 Tips for Using Power Skills to Create the Workplace of the Future
I’m taking a hiatus in April and will be back in May. I’d like to ask for YOUR help in determining the next topic. What are some topics you’d be interested in seeing me explore in the next newsletter? Message me on LinkedIn and share your wisdom. You may find the answers you’re looking for or help someone else.
Your workplace BFF