Kara Goldin is the founder and CEO of Hint Water.
I agree when people say that regret is a waste of time; mistakes are inevitable and an invaluable part of the journey.
That said, my years as an entrepreneur have provided me with so much insight and discovery — I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t have benefitted from having that understanding at the outset.
The truth is that many of the most important lessons come only through a process of trial and error, and I’ll leave those for you to uncover in your own time. But the rest is yours for the taking, and I’m more than happy to share.
First and foremost, embrace the bottom of that totem pole. My first job was as an executive assistant at Time, Inc., a division of Time Warner. Many people there were just clock-punching, and I could have gone that route — I was a mere assistant, after all.
Instead, I learned my boss’s schedule and made sure my face was the first thing she saw in the morning and the last thing she saw on her way out. I gladly took any responsibility she threw my way, and even pitched new tasks for myself to take on.
Eventually, my role had outgrown my original job description, and I was a critical member of the team. You may think that an entry-level position is beneath you or a dead end, but it is what you make it. Dig your heels in, and make a name for yourself.
The other side of that coin is to dream big, even when you feel small. Though “do what you love” is practically a cliché at this point, we truly don’t have time to waste hating our jobs or going through the motions.
If you feel confused, start by writing down what a perfect day would be for you.
Take a look at what you imagine — hosting a party, hiking, looking at couture all day. There is always a way to translate your passion into a career, even if you don’t immediately know what the path looks like. Just put one foot in front of the other, and it will start to come together.
Don’t be intimidated — no one comes out of the womb knowing how to run a business; even the most successful CEOs had to learn the ropes. Whenever you feel lost or that you’re faking it in a meeting, remember that you can’t learn without asking questions.
If you don’t understand what someone is saying, it’s probably not over your head — it’s most likely an overly-complicated initiative that needs simplifying. Keep asking questions, it will only help you.
Another tip? Be nice. Always. You may think your boss is the only person whose opinion of you matters, but five years from now that intern you snubbed might be on the other side of your interview table. It’s critical to be respectful to everyone because those are the very people who will (or won’t) help you advance within your company and into outside companies when it’s time to move on.
But if there’s one piece of advice that trumps the rest, it’s this: Go with your gut. Your 10-year plan is great and all — and you may find you end up following it bullet point to bullet point — but you can’t foresee the incredible opportunities and heart wrenching pitfalls that await you when you start out.
To navigate those detours successfully, you’ll need to trust your intuition. Everyone is a critic, and all that input can be confusing, but when you stay the course and listen to that voice inside, it will become clear that you are on your way to where you’re meant to be.
The Success Series is a collection of the best career advice from some of our favourite writers, thinkers, and leaders. This week, we asked what advice they would give to someone starting his or her first job, and to share the lessons they learned from their own first gigs. See other articles in the series here.
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