Ever wish you could have a career do-over? A chance to go back a rectify a mistake or right a wrong?
Many of us do, but rarely do we take the time required to reflect back on a regret. We mentally block out mistakes. Which, for many, means we don’t learn from those mistakes and missteps.
To help get you thinking about how you might use a career mulligan, and so we can all learn from the experience of others, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council this question:
Thinking back on your successful career, what is the one thing you would do differently? How would you use a career do-over?
As you read these insightful answers, ask yourself: “Next time, what would I do differently?”
1. Realize I Could Do It All
Earlier in my career, after the birth of my first child, I left a position as the Executive Director of a non-profit because I did a poor job of advocating for work-life balance. Years later, as a mom of five and a startup founder, I know I do not need to sacrifice work to be a good mom. It’s a balancing act, but having good child care and a supportive partner helps.
2. Trust My Instincts Earlier
In my earlier years, I was so quick to buy into other people’s opinions and subsequently throw out my own instincts. I’ve come to find that it takes a delicate balance of seeking and accepting vetted advice, mixed with your own instincts. I would have saved a lot of time and prevented a lot of mistakes, but that’s the name of the game.
3. Make More Use of Networking
It was only later in my career that I realized the power of networking to make my job easier and connect me with more opportunities. I’ve made connections with people at both online and offline meet-ups and conferences who have helped advance my career. I can’t imagine how much farther I would be at an earlier age had I used networking straight out of the gate.
4. Be More Selective
I had a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) my first year out of college. Anytime somebody pitched me on a relatively exciting project, I not only said yes, but dove in with 100 percent effort. As a result, I spread myself too thin and burned out pretty quickly. I only reached success after focusing on one really great idea as opposed to several pretty good ones.
5. Listen to the Advice of Others
When you’re younger, you think you know better because you’re the new generation and other people don’t have the same finger on the pulse of things. With this mindset, I didn’t take advice as much as I should have. Had I listened, I could have avoided certain pitfalls and advanced my career a lot quicker.
6. Identify My Mentors Early On
In hindsight, I didn’t really understand the power of mentorship to help me see around corners. As you move up rapidly in your career, there are mistakes that are difficult to anticipate. You have to surround yourself with people who have been there and done that so they can help you avoid pitfalls. Once you get to a certain level in the executive suite, this becomes crucial for success.
7. Enjoy the Process
As a new business owner, I was always so worried about meeting payroll that I didn’t realize the beauty of growth and the opportunities to learn at each stage. Now I look at younger entrepreneurs and those in different stages of their journey, and I get a little wistful. In my quest to grow, I missed out on relishing the freedom and joy of starting a company.
8. Break the Rules
I wish I had realized sooner that I didn’t have to follow a playbook or conform to expectations to be successful. I started finding my greatest happiness and achievements once I walked away from the linear path. It’s OK to be different, weird, or whatever you may be — as long as you bring passion to what you do. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and don’t worry about disappointing people.
9. Don’t Stress Over the First Job
If I could go back, I would put less pressure on finding the “right” job with the “right” company after college graduation. There are no right jobs or companies; there are just experiences. Instead, I would have asked important to me questions like, “Will I learn? Is it in a city I’m excited about? Will I be challenged?”
10. Build More Relationships
If I could do it again, I would have accepted more opportunities to build relationships and connections. When I lived in China, I worried about cash flow instead of going out and meeting all the interesting entrepreneurs there. As a solo entrepreneur, I wish I made more of an effort to interact by joining a co-working space. Make relationships a priority.
11. Take the Leap
I stuck with my first career longer than I wanted to. Every time I was close to leaving and starting my own brand, fear always set in. Do I have enough money? Can I grow fast enough? Will I be better off on my own? These are ears that can cause anyone to pause and second guess their decision. Remember, there will never be a “perfect” time. Have faith, and take the leap.
The fact is, everything I have done and wish I hadn’t done, brought me to where I am today. Some of the most important lessons only stick with you when you learn them the hard way — falling down and getting back up. The only way to succeed is by making mistakes along the way and learning from them.
13. Learn Another Language
The world is growing more connected every day. I sometimes imagine how different my career would be right now if I knew Mandarin, Japanese, French or Russian.
So what would your career do-over be?
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.