Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Powering My Career: 17 years of Growing and Learning on the Job!

I recently completed 17 years of working (non-stop) in the corporate world across 4 very different organizations and more than 10 different teams. And what a ride it has been – one that I survived and live to tell the tale!

When I started as a fresher right out of college interning at Mindshare, all I could care about is getting a half decent first job. And then the ‘what’s next’ cycle started – how do I grow my skills, how do get the next salary jump, how do I get the next promo. It is a never-ending cycle which can get tedious, reason why so many of my friends quit to follow their passion and start their own venture or just freelance on their own terms. I chose to stick on and pursue my passion for creative writing in my free time.

As I look back at what seems like a different lifetime, the amazing experiences i’ve had and the great people i’ve met and worked with could fill an entire book, but we will keep it short for the purpose of this post and focus on some of what I learnt along the way (and I wish I had known when I started out). 

1. Nurture relationships and friendships you make along the way. 
A network only gives. One of my mentors asked me to read ‘Love is the Killer App’ by Tim Sanders. If you need someone else to tell you how important networking and ‘building relationships’ is, read the book.  

2. Collaborate, don’t compete. 
Everyone is different, has different capabilities and strengths. If you are good, you will survive. Unfortunately, a lot of teams and managers play one person against the other. Competition only breeds insecurity. You end up undermining your abilities and trying too hard to be someone you are not, which is exhausting and doesn’t take you far as a professional. Collaborate instead and leverage someone else’ strengths and help others along the way. Eventually, you forget everything else and only fondly remember the people that treated you well and helped you. 

Which leads me to the next learning - 

3. Don’t be insecure.
Focus on your strengths, build new skills and learn on the job. Insecurity is a waste of time and causes unnecessary stress (I realize now when I look back). As cheesy as it may sound, it is true that what is meant to be will find a way to you. All you should (and can) do is focus on your work and growing yourself instead of focusing on others. 

But of course, 

4. Ask for what you think you deserve.
I learnt this quite late in life. I believed (quite naively) that a manager will give you what you deserve without asking, only to realize much later that the process can be accelerated if you ask for that promo or raise and work with them on the milestones they think you need to achieve to get there. This way they are as invested in the process and are a partner in your success. And sometimes you will find a manager who is not invested in your career and this process actually helps you save precious time and make the choice to stay or move on. Either way, at least you know where you stand. 

And don’t forget to - 

5. Talk about what you do. 
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to show up for yourself and take every opportunity to talk about the good work you are doing. But, please don’t be that person that just talks and never does anything to show for it :) 

And finally, 

6. Take all your vacations! 
Another one that I haven’t done enough of. Enjoy life outside of work, go out more often, travel, nurture hobbies, do things that help you grow as a person – they give you these vacation days to use and replenish yourself. No one cares that you worked so hard that all your vacation days expired at the end of the year, except that it leaves you fatigued. 

What are some of the lessons you've learnt along the way? 

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