Best lesson from your first job: discovering your weaknesses

February 10, 2015, 3:30 PM UTC
Photograph by Jerry Goldberg

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is one piece of advice all millennials should take before entering the workforce? is written by Ann Marie Petach, board member of the BlackRock Institutional Trust Company.

Don’t be afraid to take risk and fail.

As millennials entering the workforce, you are at the start of a long (and wonderful) journey. The road ahead is undefined, so be sure to embrace every challenge you encounter and remember to keep moving forward. As a group, millennials face a highly competitive job market – up against some of the toughest educational and hiring standards than any other generation. However, given that you’re just beginning your career and you have significantly more professional years in front of you than behind you, you can actually afford to take risks and successfully bounce back if you fail. Your first work experience will reveal two things: the type of employee you are and how you can use your strengths to contribute.

Ask yourself: What do I like doing? What am I good at? What do I find difficult? Remember that learning what you don’t enjoy and discovering areas that need improvement is just as important and valuable as knowing your strengths. Learning that you’re not a great sales person but rather a better big ideas person (or vice versa) does not mean failure. Overtime, you will come to know yourself professionally and where you fit within your company.

Whether or not your first job is your true calling, it’s still important to leave an impact and be a source of value to your employer. This may require pushing yourself through some hard and unpleasant tasks, but this can also mean bringing your unique strengths to the table as well. And above all, always be open to learning. During my first job, among other things, I learned to play Euchre, a popular card game in the Midwest. I had moved from New Jersey to Michigan to become a financial analyst for an automotive manufacturing company. Through learning Euchre, I was invited to lunch with other long-term employees and became “one of the guys.” They took me under their wings and and helped me learn the business better than I could have alone – plus we actually had fun working together! It has been many years since I have been out on a factory floor, but I still remember the valuable skills that I learned and the lasting friendships that I made.

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