The Leadership 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’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?” is by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.
I spent years in various roles related to auditing, international real estate, and tax consulting. And while I was climbing the corporate ladder at different companies, I didn’t always know what I wanted my next step to be. I was unsure of my ultimate career goal, but I made it a point to ensure each move offered a new found skill or experience to add to my resume. Here’s how I made the most of each experience:
Take advantage of every opportunity
While in my first professional job as an accountant, I figured out that you can make a career wherever you wind up. It’s just up to you to determine how to make the most of it and how to use it to your advantage. Here I became inspired and grounded in the reality that I was meant to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be creating the numbers for my own business, not reacting to others.
Use point A to get to point B
Once I knew I wanted to establish my own company, it allowed me to start seeking out projects and positions that wouldn’t just add to my resume, but would also contribute to the meaningful experience I needed to be a successful business owner. I began thinking big picture and was able to develop skills and connections that would set the groundwork for future success.
Gain knowledge from variety
Many entrepreneur’s start out in other jobs first. They learn the ropes of the business world and what it’s like at different companies before starting their own initiatives — this is very important! I may have known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur after a few years, but that didn’t mean I knew what type of company to start or how I was going to make it happen. By becoming more aware of my surroundings and taking as many opportunities as possible to peek behind the curtains, I was able to gain an understanding of the inner workings of a variety of organizations from manufacturing to technology and retail.
Be aware of the possibilities
My curiosity, eagerness, and appreciation for the variety of clients I worked with drove me to business school and into the next phase of my career where there were several defining moments. These moments – both good and bad – set me up for success. And being aware of these moments helped me realize that point B could lead to something even bigger than I imagined. A presentation at Harvard on water conservation is part of the inspiration that transformed my life and lead to the creation of S’well. As an advocate of reusable bottles, the message hit close to home. With the right experience under my belt, all I needed was to take a leap of faith in myself, my skills, and my big idea.
Don’t be afraid to take a risk
Success comes from a willingness to take risks, especially in your career. Be bold and have confidence in yourself. Ask for projects, promotions, and pay-raises you want (and I’m sure deserve). Seek out new experiences whenever possible. Yes, the unknown can be scary – I didn’t know that S’well would grow to where it is today and I definitely didn’t know that I would have the opportunity to partner with some of the largest fashion and beverage retailers in the world. But the unknown will remain the unknown, unless you enter those unchartered waters. If you have something that you think you want to try, try it. You never know where it might lead.