*Note: This post has been republished from Create & Cultivate
I’ve been helping students, peers, and friends figure out their education and career journeys for nearly fifteen years. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve learned a great deal about how to craft my own destiny since entering the workforce, despite what at times has felt like I’ve strayed from my course.
Throughout my career journey, I figured out what skills I needed to develop and found a way to pursue my passions, even when my full-time role wasn’t exactly my dream job. By taking on different responsibilities and learning opportunities, and by shifting to a different mindset, I continued to set myself apart and diversify my skill set. I’ve relied on some simple career tenets in the companies and roles I’ve had for over a decade—even if they were subconscious at the time—and it’s not surprising that we’re teaching students some of these things through my work at HIVE DIVERSITY.
Regardless of where you are in your own career journey—whether you’re just starting out, thinking about a pivot, or just aren’t exactly at your end goal quite yet—here’s my advice for ensuring you always grow closer to your career sweet spot.
This advice may seem obvious since there are many people who aren’t in their dream jobs. However, I’m not guiding you to open the floodgates to start considering anything and everything. If you can envision a path to the role you want from the role you’re considering, it might be worth a shot rather than waiting for the perfect job, especially in a challenging market. I graduated from college during a financial downturn, so I’ve experienced what it’s like to start or pivot a career during a period of uncertainty. I wasn’t in a position financially where I could go too long without a job, so I eventually accepted a role that wasn’t related as closely to my major and to what I wanted to do, but where I could see a path to getting there.
Fast forward to today, and I’m the chief operating officer at HIVE DIVERSITY, a career development and recruiting platform which brings together one unique community of students and recent graduates with employers who value diversity. Our students learn about career development from five levels of gamified content, videos, and resources, which take them from college majors and career planning through interview prep. As part of our guidance on selecting a post-grad role, we advise students “as long as the job is not just ‘anything’ it doesn’t have to be everything… just a step in the right direction.” Of course, if you get your dream job, that works, too!
A big part of my work and life approach is informed by design thinking, a human-centered approach to solving problems. To aid in idea-generation, design thinkers will often call upon the mindset of “yes, and” (also used in the world of improv), which involves accepting and building on new ideas, rather than saying no to them. In my experience “Yes, and…” has meant finding something worth accepting in anything that comes my way, and then adding my own spin on it.
When it comes to your career and helping to get closer to what you want and value, “yes, and” can be a great way to ensure you’re not closing doors too quickly that might lead to something useful. A few years ago, I was in a fast-paced customer-facing operations role with a lot to manage and little time to do it. When I was asked to add a new daily task to my to-do list, my initial instinct was to say “No, but…” which I pivoted to a “yes, and.” Yes, I took on the ongoing task, and I amended the ask so that I improved the process itself. I recognized that adding my own twist of process improvement would be a résumé-builder in itself. Not only did this new task eventually take a lot less time to do, but I was able to find value in the initial idea that was sent my way.
As you’re on your journey to career nirvana, look for ways to work or volunteer in the areas you’re most interested in if it’s not exactly what you’re doing full-time. You might be in a company you love but not in your dream department or functional area. Or, you might be considering an individual contributor role, and you know that you want to build leadership experience to get the job you’ve always wanted. If you have the capacity to take on additional projects or learning opportunities, don’t be afraid to seek them out!
As part of a rotational training program at a company I was excited to work at, I’d learned that there was a department specifically focused on technical project management—something I’d been exposed to and wanted to build on. Through demonstrating interest and an informational meeting with the department head, I ultimately was able to rotate to that department. I love leading teams, so when I took on a subsequent role where I could expand on technical skills without being a people manager, I sought opportunities to lead. Given my interest in diversity and inclusion, I volunteered to be on the leadership team of two employee resource groups: another vital “extra” role that clinched my experience in both D&I and leadership at once!
Ultimately, I’d built up a portfolio of experiences that caught the eye of my partner and HIVE founder, Byron Slosar. Building on my work across operations, career services, process improvement, diversity and inclusion, leading teams, and more, I wound up being the perfect fit for HIVE DIVERSITY and vice versa.
If you’ve spent time learning what you want, it turns out you already have the tools to get there. Take chances, be proactive, and work with what you have. The rest will follow.