Although we generally loathe dwelling on the woulda, coulda, shoulda moments in life, we can’t deny that sometimes, hindsight can be a very insightful form of wisdom. What better way to prepare for the future than learning from the experience of others?
In an effort to tap into the secrets of remarkable women with successful careers in STEM, we reached out to the TechWomen community of past emerging leaders, mentors, female tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, investors and role models through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and asked, “What career advice would you give to your younger self?”
The response was tremendous. Here are 10 of the most powerful insights they shared:
1. Don’t limit yourself to one industry or line of work.
If your Computer Science degree is the only reason you are a programmer, it’s time to re-explore your options. Likewise, if you think you can’t successfully launch a tech startup because you don’t have a background in tech, think again. The scope of fields in STEM is broad, and the types of jobs found in these fields are diverse. These innovative industries are dynamic and always changing. The trick is finding a cozy niche that allows you to exercise your strengths while tickling the curiosity and whims of your playful inner child.
2. Be patient.
At one time or another, we’ve all got to pay our dues. You may not get your dream job right out of college. That’s okay. There are lots of things to be learned, if you listen and open your mind. Learn as much as you can from each job, as it will prepare you for better opportunities in the future. It may be a long, tough journey to get to where you want to be, but isn’t that what makes life fun? Enjoy the adventure, and learn from it. You’ll grow.
3. Be patient, but don’t settle.
Don’t wait passively. Life doesn’t wait for you. Seize opportunities that come your way. Decide what you want to do with your life and determine the things you need to do to get there. Start doing, now. Even if you take small steps, these steps will bring you closer to your goals, wherever they may be.
4. Be focused and do the work.
Being good at something requires some effort. Being really good at something requires a little more effort. But being great at something requires lots of focused effort. Sure, we’ve all heard about the overnight successes, underdog geniuses and college dropouts who made it to the top in the blink of an eye, but scratch beneath the surface of any individual with rare talent, and you’ll find someone who has put in thousands of hours honing their skills. There are no shortcuts.
5. Know what you’re worth.
Don’t underestimate your capabilities. Others will regard you the same way you regard yourself. If you don’t value yourself, others will undervalue you as well. Value yourself highly, and others will follow. Be more confident in your abilities and ask for more.
6. Be a role model.
Role models are people who possess the qualities we would like to have; they make us want to be better. Aim to be a role model for others, and be the best one you can be. Your little sisters, the kids you used to babysit, the new college hires—they’re all watching. Show them your best side. Be inspirational.
7. Be humble and cultivate relationships.
Never be too proud to admit that you’ve made a mistake, to ask for help, to apologize, or to thank others. Even in data-driven, results-oriented high-tech professions, people matter. Cultivate good relationships with a wide variety of people.
8. Have a personal advisory board.
It’s a myth that you can do it all on your own. You don’t know everything. Accept it. Find people who know the things you don’t know, or people who may think differently about the things you think you have mastered, and ask for their feedback. You don’t have to suit up and hold weekly board meetings, but everyone—no matter where they are in life—should have their own inner circle of trusted advisors to support them and help guide them through life’s decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone has to have your back.
9. Never give up!
Your willpower is one of the few things in life you can control. When doubts slip in, don’t get bogged down. Motivate yourself to keep going!
10. Take risks. Don’t fear failure.
Don’t be afraid to fail, or to try again. As Maya Angelou once wrote:
Courage allows the successful woman to fail-
and learn powerful lessons-
from the failure-
so that in the end,
she didn’t fail at all.
We hope these snippets of wisdom galvanize you to take action and work towards achieving your dreams!
Do you have any advice to share? Please leave a comment!