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 Mary Godwin, VP of operations at Qumulo.
The great thing about being a young professional in your 20s is that you have plenty of years ahead of you to grow and make mistakes, However, there is one caveat: you don’t have 30 years of experience and knowledge to determine your career path…yet. The best way every 20-something can gain this experience is by adopting a flexible mindset about how their careers will evolve.
In fact, almost every executive I’ve ever known didn’t start their career in the same industry they ended it. I know engineers who started out as developers but evolved into marketers, sales professionals and in one case, a patent attorney. In my own case, I started as a plastics engineer and eventually ended up in operations. Just because you got your degree in automated basket weaving, does not mean that you have to stay in that field for your entire career. Especially if, once you start working, you discover that automated basket weaving is not what you want to be doing for the next 35 years. The point is that you have to find work that you love – because that is what turns a job into a career, and puts you on the path to being successful.
Once you have your niche, you must make sure that your work challenges you, every single day. Honestly, if you don’t feel just a little bit queasy on your commute into the office every morning, you’re probably not taking enough risks. If you want to have a rewarding career, you can’t just show up and “turn the crank” the same way every day. It’s not good for your growth and it’s probably not good for the company you work for.
Don’t be afraid to take on projects or work that you have never done before. In fact, I would encourage you to get involved in work that you have never done before. Whether or not that new project leads you down a different path in your career, you will definitely learn something. That learning may inject new life into your “full time” role or get you to see things from a different perspective.