There’s no such thing as a linear career path

February 13, 2015, 7:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Trish Lukasik

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond 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 Trish Lukasik, Senior Vice President of Sales at PepsiCo.

Raised on technology in an ever-increasing globalized world, millennials are entering the workplace with a special kind of zeal. I love it. And I don’t see them as very different than the younger me. But, there is one piece of advice I wish someone would have told me at their age: your learning has just begun.

Your first job may not be glamorous, and you may be surprised how little it has to do with what you learned in college, but pay attention – you will do your most intense learning here. Your first few positions will help create a foundation of knowledge and experience that will significantly influence the rest of your career. I can’t remember much from my advanced econometrics class, but I will never forget how to calculate profit and think through basic supply and demand impacts, thanks to the requirements of my first few jobs.

You may even be asked to do a job that isn’t in line with your “5-year plan.“ Take the job. If you love it, you may find a new path to follow. If you don’t, you can still take away plenty of useful knowledge.

You may stumble. And I hope you do, because even greater learning will come from your mistakes! When you first enter the workforce, you typically take on positions where the consequences of your errors are less severe than later in your career. So be bold, take risks and allow yourself to fail a bit.

Finally, remember that your career is in your hands. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must follow a linear path to success, because that doesn’t really exist anymore. Pursue your unique passions and dreams and make your own path.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What is one piece of advice all millennials should take before entering the workforce?

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Can millennials revolutionize business? by Erica Dhawan, co-author of “Get Big Things Done” and CEO of Cotential.

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