“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

When I was 22, I was in the middle of working on my Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. I would only work in counseling for a few years after graduation before realizing I needed to be in a job where I had more control over the outcome.

Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. I needed to take that path in order to get to where I am today. That said, here’s some advice I’d try to pass along to my 22-year-old self (that my 22-year-old self would have ignored anyway).

  • You don’t learn everything you need to learn in school. In fact, you don’t learn most of what you need to know in school. But you learn how to learn. None of that is wasted (except maybe that “Planets and Moons” class I took at Michigan as an undergrad…).
  • There are other things you need to go out of your way to learn in order to succeed in just about any job. They aren’t part of most curriculums but read up, get a mentor, and attend workshops – whatever you need to do. I’m talking about public speaking (Yes! Really! Suck it up – you’ll like it!), how to have difficult conversations, time management, project management, basic management skills, change management, and meeting facilitation.
  • There are other things that you’ll learn along the way whether you want to or not: how to navigate office politics, how to say “no” without saying no, how to handle sexism and ageism, and how to balance your work life during times of personal stress. Sorry. Don’t worry, you can handle more than you ever thought possible.
  • “It’s lonely along the extra mile.” Go just a bit beyond what’s expected every time. It will serve you well.
  • Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Stop being such a people-pleaser, and do what you know is right.
  • Don’t apologize for things that aren’t your fault. Save the “I’m sorry” for times when you really mean it. Let your voice be heard without apology.
  • Never stop learning. If you are no longer challenged at work, it’s time to move on.
  • Finally, when one door closes, another opens. Cliché but true. You won’t have the same job for 40 years like your parents. You have a career that will shift over time, but will make sense when you look back at where you’ve come from. Go with it.

And, if nothing else, don’t forget to wear sunscreen. You’ll be glad you did later.