Never Focus On This at Your First Job

December 16, 2015, 11:30 PM UTC
Courtesy of Ruder Finn, Inc.

The MPW 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 should every 20-something do to set themselves up for success? is written by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Your 20s are a time for self-exploration and development. This is the time to for laying the foundation for your career and doing the extra groundwork that will help you succeed in the future. But perhaps more importantly, it’s the time to do the unexpected, and welcome a little disorder. From my view, here are three things every 20-something can do to set themselves up for future success:

Dive head first into a cold pool
In college, I was a political science major and language specialist, but my first job was as a computer programmer and statistician. This was a huge stretch assignment, as I took on a new and unfamiliar area. It forced me to learn early on in my career when to ask for help. I also learned the importance of logical thinking. Even today, I still approach challenges in a factual manner, thinking through the sequence and effect of each solution. Additionally, I learned the power of data and the rich insights that come with it, which is becoming an even more important part of my business today.

See also: This Important Skill Is Often Overlooked In Leaders

Embrace the unwelcome
My first seat in the office was in a small closet-like space in the corner away from everyone else. It was very isolating and also made me feel shunted aside. This made me push myself to get out of my space, walk the halls, and find opportunities to be involved. I had to fight harder to make a valuable contribution and be seen by management. I learned early on that success doesn’t come from handouts. You need to work hard and push yourself beyond your comfort zone to achieve your goals.

Don’t link salary to your feelings of worth
We all have to start somewhere, and this sometimes means starting with a low salary – but it is not your paycheck at this early stage that will define your success. It is truly the first experiences in your career that sets you on your way. So choose carefully, follow your interests, and work with people who you have good chemistry and who will push you to grow.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What should every 20-something do to set themselves up for success?

The Secret to Finding Success In Your 20s by Ritu Anand, head of talent management at Tata Consultancy Services.

The Common Myth Young Professionals Need to Avoid by Yolanda Seals-Coffield, principal at PwC.

How Millennials Can Succeed at Their First Job by Lynn Perkins, CEO of UrbanSitter.

How to Overcome Challenges of a Career Change by Lisa Lambert, vice president of Intel Capital.

What every 20-something should know about their first job by Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte.

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