The Leadership Insiders 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 advice would you give your 22 year old self today?” is written by Lisa Utzschneider, chief revenue officer at Yahoo.
When I started my career in advertising sales as an entry-level account manager, I was eager and wanted to learn as much as possible about the business. Over the years, I have held many different roles focusing on areas such as strategy, operations, and driving revenue. This rewarding experience has taught me to appreciate a challenge and look for a creative approach to reach my goals. But this was never an easy or straight path.
Here are three important things I learned the hard way, and wish I could have told my younger self ahead of time:
Know when to take a risk
Throughout your career there will be countless moments, both big and small, when you need to weigh the risks of taking action. You can also bet that at these times, people will step up to voice their opinions on what you should do. Learning to be comfortable with taking risks, tuning out the naysayers, and trusting your instincts is an important part of your career growth.
But let’s admit it: Taking a big risk can be terrifying.
While at Microsoft, I was contacted by a former colleague who encouraged me to explore a new global vice president role at Amazon. At the time, I was expecting our first child and wasn’t looking for a career change. Colleagues and friends said there were too many risks, both personally and professionally. Some said I was crazy to even consider it.
I took the risk anyway. In doing so, I had the chance to build a global team and business from the ground up. I also learned just how critical it is to tune out the skeptics and redefined what really mattered in my career.
It’s all in the preparation
Ask yourself, “If you showed up to an important meeting without your laptop, would you know your material well enough to forge ahead?”
Knowledge and preparation can often make or break you in these moments, when a technical glitch or other pitfall arises. Most of us experience at least one situation like this, and it’s a good reminder of how important knowing your subject matter really is. Whether you’re planning for an internal meeting, client presentation, or on-stage talk, take a step back and make sure you have a clear agenda in mind and are ready to answer questions, with or without your PowerPoint presentation.
Leave a lasting impression
If it’s early on in your career or you’re new to a role, you may be wondering how to make an impression on your boss and other leaders at your company. Every business, no matter the size or mission, needs problem solvers.
Have you noticed an area of the business that just isn’t working as efficiently as it should, or an experience that could be better for your customers? If so, consider what could be improved and share your ideas with your superiors.
Perhaps you’re passionate about culture and promoting diversity, but it’s not in your job title. We had a senior director on our sales team who was focused on video advertising, but also felt moved to apply her talents and dedication to the area of diversity. She is now our global head of inclusive diversity, ensuring that we not only recruit but retain diverse talent—a critical part of serving our over one billion users around the globe.
When you help your company effect real change and do this frequently, leadership will remember you. And even more importantly, they may seek your opinion when the next challenge comes up.