The Fortune 500 Insider Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Penny Wise, chief branding officer at 3M, has answered the question: Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self about career development?
Embracing the journey is equally as important as the destination. Even the best of plans will be redirected, and sometimes it’s for the better, even if you don’t realize it at the time. Maybe you’ll be asked to take an unexpected position, maybe you’ll need to relocate, or maybe you’ll take a job that seemed like a good fit but ends up not being what you thought. Everyone’s career is filled with twists and turns, but having career goals will help put those unplanned twists in perspective.
Below are some other key pieces of career advice I would offer my younger self:
There are no do-overs in life, so work hard to not have any regrets
Take risks that push you, even when it means leaving team members you’re friends with or taking on a role that may challenge you outside of your current skill set. Make choices that align to the person you want to be and the life you want to lead. Embrace who you are in the moment and build on that by making the best choices you know how to make.
There are always moments in life that don’t go as planned, so learn from each what you can
This could be anything from a presentation that goes awry to a job that ends up not being the best fit. We all make mistakes, and while it’s easy to kick ourselves, it’s important to not dwell on them. Instead, ask yourself what you can learn from those types of situations in an effort to improve upon (or avoid) them in the future.
Look at each new job as a building block
While I’d like to be able to say all of my jobs/positions were clearly mapped out, leading me down a definitive career path right out of college, I’d be lying. Some of my early jobs helped me realize what I didn’t want to do. Those were valuable lessons. As I learned more about my passions and strengths, they guided me in the career direction I was excited about. All of them helped me get to where I am today, and they’re all valuable in their own right.
Make friends, not enemies
You never know how or when or with whom your path will cross. Maintaining professional relationships (and not burning bridges) is important—and more fun. We all know there are difficult personalities and those people who don’t carry their own weight on teams, but learning to work with diverse types of people will benefit you in your day-to-day work life as well as in leadership roles.
Work hard to keep your priorities in check
I’ve found it’s also important to remember that a career is a big part of who you are, but it is not all of who you are. As a young mother with two small children, I used to get hung up on in-the-moment stuff, feeling guilty if I needed to stay home to care for a sick child. Now I look back on that and know that I made the right decision for my career and my family by choosing my family first. There will always be time to catch up on your work, so remember to keep a good work-life balance.
While embracing the journey isn’t always fun or easy, having career goals and realistic expectations will help you weigh decisions against something. Looking back at my career, having a sense of where I wanted to be in the future has helped me navigate the various stages of the journey.