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 Juliet de Baubigny, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
When I was in college, I was one of those type-A students; I loved getting to know others and making connections. My schedule was always full. I was involved in everything from clubs to charities and varsity sports. So when I graduated, I thought I had a solid plan in place: I was on my way to starting a career at a Fortune 50 company. Everything was set — my parents were proud, I was earning real money, and in a management trainee program on my way toward leadership within the company. Joining the real world was going to be great — or so I thought.
It wasn’t long before I realized how unhappy I was. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. I took a good hard look at myself and remembered a time in school when I attended a talk by an executive who ran a boutique recruiting firm. She told us stories about what it was like to have a career focused on connecting people to opportunity. It was inspiring to say the least, more than enough for me to remember it years later.
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Even though I had zero experience, I had this gut feeling that this was the direction I wanted to take my career, so I picked up the phone and called her. They weren’t hiring but I was relentless and told her I would come work for her for free and if I was good, we’d figure something out. She was reluctant, but eventually agreed. So I took the leap. And it turns out that I was good at the job, but more importantly, I loved what I was doing.
It was a critical juncture not only for my career, but also for my life. At the time, it felt risky (my parents were especially unhappy) to move from a well-thought-out plan to something that I felt an instinctual urge to pursue. Looking back now, it was one of the best choices I have ever made. So my best piece of advice for any 20-something would be: don’t be afraid to bet on yourself.
For me, my decision wasn’t about staying at company X versus joining company Y. It was about believing and having the confidence to bet on myself, even when it seemed risky. Something that I tell executives and CEOs that I work with today (and sometimes myself) is that “success” is being able to hit the ground running with 70% of the skills you need under your belt, so you can stretch into the other 30%.
At your age, if you have something that you want learn, or you have a risky job offer in your hands, don’t get in your own way. Don’t let the uncertainty factor hold you back. Don’t let a lack of confidence stop you from pursuing what you really want.