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Why You Should Take on Projects Even If You’re Not Ready

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?” is written by Keri Gohman, president of Xero Americas.

When I started my career in an advertising firm, I went out on a sales call to General Electric. I left that day with something I wasn’t quite expecting: a job offer. When I called my dad to tell him that I had been offered a role at the world-renowned leadership engine, he asked me a simple question: “Are you ready?”

“Yes I am,” my confident, 22-year-old self responded.

Although his question may not technically qualify as advice, it had basically the same effect. From this moment on I learned that if there’s an opportunity to demonstrate your ability, always raise your hand and say yes—even if you’re scared to. The reality is that I had no idea if I was ready for that opportunity. But I knew that with hard work, humility, and a little self-confidence, I could be.

I live by the principle of being a “yes” woman. I’ve raised my hand whenever a new assignment, role, or opportunity to volunteer has emerged, and it’s paid off. It takes confidence to raise your hand when new opportunities come up. Keep in mind that the right people will start to notice if you step up consistently.

Early in my career, before I had experience managing people, I raised my hand to take a leadership role in a new career development support organization. While it was a volunteer assignment, the position enabled me to lead people across five different divisions. It was a fantastic experience in which I got to meet some amazing leaders. Later, when I applied for my first role leading employees, I pointed to this evidence of being able to lead—and I got the job.

Remember, saying yes to a new opportunity doesn’t mean you have to figure it out on your own. In fact, you need to be smart and humble about what you don’t know if you want to be successful. When you start something new, you’ll probably need help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it. People will always surprise you with their generosity. After all, who isn’t flattered when someone asks for their wisdom?

 

On top of that, when people end up supporting you, they become a part of your network. They will be invested in your success. Don’t forget to pay it forward, and offer your time to help others as well. If you give that in abundance, you’ll then become a part of their support networks.

A note of caution: In being open-minded, don’t compromise who you are. It’s important not to get sidelined by projects and roles that you aren’t excited about and don’t capitalize on your strengths. So even though sometimes you’ll take something on that isn’t perfect, try to focus on opportunities that best leverage your interests and skills.

You’ll never know if you’re good at something unless you try it out first. So always say yes to new opportunities, but make sure success is defined on your own terms.