Hear from Rita, the People Director in ZXV Europe, on "6 Things I Wish I knew Early in my Career"
Early in my career I had an idea of a scalable concept store that I would build from scratch. I had very little experience but of course at the time I didn’t realize just how little. I was so sure I was going to succeed that I quit my job (that, by the way, paid for my business school) and jumped off of the proverbial cliff. I thought by just dreaming about it and visualizing it, my dream would materialize by the time I reached the ground.
Instead it did two things.
First, it gave me the biggest punch in the face I ever got and made me realize how much I still have to learn. Next, it gave me a second chance. So I found an amazing company and embarked on an exciting journey in HR, which allowed me not only to grow in my career but in my personality too.
Nine years is a long time, especially when you live and work in 4 different countries over 2 continents in 5 different roles. You would think people in different cultures speaking different languages must have different mindsets too, yet I’ve seen not one but many similar patterns over the years.
One of these patterns I’ve noticed is young, ambitious people making the same mistakes early in their career. These might be well necessary to allow that individual to mature and grow (like my experience did for me) but I wish I knew these when I was younger. And as much as I’m a big fan of personal development through experience I also like to believe that not every learning has to come from our own mistakes.
So here’s my advice to help you along the journey of dreaming bigger and building the awesome career that you’ve always dreamed of:
- There’s no such thing as being too ambitious but don’t overestimate your experience. People often come to me for career advice. When a junior sales representative told me that he’d done sales for a year and he now knows how to sell, so wants to do something else, I was speechless for a split second. To top this, he spoke to me as he was interested in joining HR, and it turned out he also spoke to two other leads about wanting to join their functions. Now it’s absolutely fine not knowing what you want to be at a young age. It wasn’t until I turned 29 that I realized I really wanted to be in HR. And I made a mistake by not asking. So if you’re not quite sure, don’t rush it. And this leads to my second point:
- Be curious, speak to your senior colleagues or leaders, and ask questions. Don’t be afraid that your question might not be a killer one (I made myself a fool quite a few times trying to ask The question that would blow everyone away). If your interest is honest, people will see it. That said, don’t try and pretend you’re interested because that’s when you find yourself in that “what a stupid question I asked” situation. By speaking to your senior colleagues or leads you will not only learn a lot, but build your internal network too which will become a strength and it might also help you land in awesome projects and opportunities.
- Things don’t happen immediately most of the time, so be patient. No, I don’t mean you should sit back and relax – quite the opposite actually. By being patient, I mean being humble. If you accept the fact that we’ve all been there wanting to change the world and that you have a lot to learn even if you don’t know why and how, you can become the one who finally changes the world for the better. But be ready for a challenging journey ahead because things don’t happen just because we deserve it.
- Don’t mix up the order. First you work hard, and then you get the reward. Life would be a piece of cake if it was the other way around. Again, I’ve seen many talented young professionals who were banging their hands on the table to get a promotion because they believe they should already be at that level. With this approach, you actually achieve the opposite: a virtual stamp to your virtual grade book saying you’re immature. Ok, ok, you say, how do I show that I can do it to get to that desired next level? It’s simple - do it! How many times we’ve said, “Oh if it was me I would do this or that”. So do it. Set your goal, make the plan, get the buy-in, and go for it. If you’re achieving your results in your role, they won’t stop you. At the end of the day you’ll be making them a better leader, too. Just don’t forget to deliver on it. I’ve seen way too many unfinished dreams. If you really want that dream, you will reach it, otherwise you didn’t want it that much.
- It’s your dream, your plan, so make sure you own it. Ownership: we hear this cliché word a lot, and it took me a long time to feel comfortable using the word although I’ve always understood what it meant. My mother used to tell when she asked me to do something: “Ne úgy csináld, hogy más is hozzáférjen”. Little did I understand what she meant by it until many years later. If I attempted to translate, it would mean something like “Whatever you start complete it” and in hindsight she actually taught me ownership. No matter what I do, I should always complete what I started, to the best of my ability so I don’t leave it to others to finish.
- Don’t burn bridges. It’s easy to get excited by a new opportunity but before you act too quickly, ask for advice. That’s what your HR team is there for - whether you are unsure or need coaching, they're your go-to people— and trust me, they will happily advise and give you guidance.
Punches in the face are never a positive experience but in hindsight we can always find the reason: they are here to teach us a lesson. The good news is: the more you learn from them the less punches you’ll get and just don’t stop. #dreambigger