Sharon Ritchey, chief operating officer at AXA U.S.
Courtesy of AXA U.S.
By Sharon Ritchey
December 18, 2015

The MPW Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What should every 20-something do to set themselves up for success? is by Sharon Ritchey, chief operating officer at AXA US.

I remember my 20-something self, eager to make my mark in the world. Now, armed with a few decades of experience and a successful career, I realize there are a few things that I wish I knew when I was 20. First and foremost, flexibility and openness to new experiences is key. Flexibility is essential to success in today’s world where change is the only constant. Many paths — both expected and unexpected — can be taken to a rewarding career.

In business, one can follow many paths, to marketing, finance, analytics, law, management, or product development, just to name a few. And from there into many professions: healthcare, consumer products, banking and finance, government, and so on. So refrain from panicking even when you don’t have a clear path leading to where you think you should be.

See also: Why Women Need to Brag More

Also, be passionate, because you won’t be able to work for 35 or 40 years without a love for what you do. Which is why there’s nothing wrong with leaving a job that isn’t a good fit. Early in my career I worked at a large bank, where we had to terminate my role and move me into a marketing position. It was a great learning experience, but it only took me a year to realize marketing wasn’t for me despite graduating college with a degree in marketing.

It’s also important to take risks, and see what additional skills you can gain by trying something new. This is not necessarily just asking for more to do. Ideally, your actions will build a feeling of trust with your manager, knowing that you have learned what’s going on in your department and that you can handle things without being asked.

And always be curious; keep your eyes open and ask questions. Think about how and why your business is changing. You can’t solve problems or learn unless you’re curious — and managing is about addressing problems that need solutions.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What should every 20-something do to set themselves up for success?

Never Focus On This at Your First Job by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

This Important Skill Is Often Overlooked In Leaders by Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

The Secret to Finding Success In Your 20s by Ritu Anand, head of talent management at Tata Consultancy Services.

The Common Myth Young Professionals Need to Avoid by Yolanda Seals-Coffield, principal at PwC.

How Millennials Can Succeed at Their First Job by Lynn Perkins, CEO of UrbanSitter.

How to Overcome Challenges of a Career Change by Lisa Lambert, vice president of Intel Capital.

What every 20-something should know about their first job by Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte.

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