What I’ve learned so far that helped me succeed in my career
I always lacked confidence. If I wanted to learn one skill in my life that would’ve made my life so much easier it would be that one. I had written about this in my previous post, but the reason I’m emphasising it now is that I thought I had overcome it when I did all the right things like putting myself out there. I realised that I’m only scratching the surface, the more I experience the more I learn about my self and about this particular aspect.
When I started my career I always minded my own business, did my work as I was told and never really spoke up much in meetings. I got to a place where my career hit a plateau. It wasn’t until then that I realised that was not me. I had always been competitive, I had always been the best daughter, the best student, the best friend…There I was very average. That was my wake-up call.
I had discovered that I had to speak up to put my self out there and be noticed. That’s exactly what I did. It was very hard, but I do have to say that when you are surrounded by good mentors who push you and support you, it makes a lot of difference. That was when I started winning awards and being appreciated and asked to speak my mind and contribute.
Then I decided to move abroad, again! This time to Montreal. My previous manager had asked me if I were interested in a position with his new team and I immediately said yes. However, something very disappointing happened to me. I lost all the confidence I had worked on building. All of it went flying right outside the window and I sort of relapsed in a way.
Before I moved here, I started telling myself that I was going to start working with people who have a lot of years of experience in the field and in the ground in North America. I was a geotechnical engineer who barely worked with clay before. For those of you who don’t know it, clay is one of the most challenging ground conditions to deal with in construction, and I had just pushed myself to the part of the world where there’s a lot of it. I started thinking, what if I don’t get it right, what if I’m judged for that lack of experience in that particular ground. I eventually put myself in a cloud of doubt that moved me a number of steps backward and put me back in the “not-so confident” zone. I started going back to being quiet again. I felt like I had lost all the progress I was working on from a personal perspective to get me to the next stage of my career.
When I started working on projects with clay I realised that I still remembered everything I had learned in university (not that I’m that old!). I grounded myself and said it’s going to take some more work but that’s natural. Again, I started putting myself out there and having conversations and discussions with people so that I build back my confidence.
I learned that to me, this is and will always be work in progress. This experience made me realise that what you tell yourself and how you talk to yourself are very important. If you create fear in your mind out of nothing it will materialise and hinder you from growing. For some people confidence comes naturally, for others like me I have to work on it everyday. I have to wake up and tell myself and take a conscious decision that today I’m not going to be shy, I will speak up and participate and be the person I want to be. Most importantly I have to stop doubting myself. You will be shocked at how much better you are than you think you are.
So, to wrap this up, I thought it’s better to put down in steps what I had to do so far to elevate my career. There is no exact science here and these steps are what I did personally. It may or may not work for everyone, but I believe there’s a lot of truth in there that applies to a lot of us. This list will definitely keep growing as I learn more and more but for now here’s what I do know:
- Question where you are in your career. You don’t have to look at other people and compare yourself to them. This is very personal. Look at who were when you were younger and who you are now. If you don’t like the progress, identify why and do something about it. For me it was confidence, for someone else it might be different, but knowing will help you change;
- Always take risks. If you get an opportunity that feels right for your career, say yes and then think about it! If it feels right, then it most definitely is right for your future. What comes later is your logical mind that usually lays down the risks to scare you, but you will find that exploring the challenges along the way are much more rewarding than counting them up just to make a decision;
- If you want to work on your confidence, just put yourself out there. It doesn’t matter what you do or what you say. Really the first step is to participate;
- Surround yourself by good mentors. This could be anyone present in your career that you respect their opinion and challenges you continuously. It doesn’t even have to be one person. One thing I would definitely recommend is expanding your network on linkedin and reaching out for people to build a good relationship through constant conversation. You could find your next mentor there. I was recently approached by someone who used to work for my old company then moved on to having his own business. I keep having conversations with him on the business and even asking for his opinion on some technical projects I’m working on;
- I won’t tell you not to doubt yourself, we all go through it. But if you do then don’t repeat it to yourself so much that you start believing it. Its’ important to speak to yourself in a constructive way rather than a destructive way;
- Finally, I would say just understand that this is a work in progress thing. Understand your limitations, vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Don’t think that they will hinder you but think more of what you can do to work around them and be gentle. For me I’ve realised that it takes a lot of energy for me to constantly remind myself to be confident. I accepted that it’s there for now and it might be there for a long time until I finally feel naturally more confident. I decided to put in that effort every day to overcome it.