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Important Voices: "If I only knew then"

Do you find that your path is the result from a series of unexpected twists and turns? Have you ever thought about the wisdom you carry with you in life as you navigate through this journey? I believe that sharing wisdom can be a powerful act, especially for younger folks at the beginning of their own stories. It has to be challenging for young professionals starting out in their career to get the pulse of an industry or organizational culture when everything is changing and moving so fast.


Can you remember what those early career days were like for you? Do you recall that first manager or opportunity that you had when you were just starting out? If you knew then what you know now, how might that have changed your career journey?


This month, I decided to reach out to some of my closest friends, colleagues, and clients to ask them to reflect on those early days. I wanted to know how they would answer this prompt: “If I only knew then what I know now…what would that be and why?” The responses were insightful, thoughtful, and fun. Feel free to share them with a new graduate or a friend who has an early career professional in their life who might enjoy these insights. After all, sometimes the right bit of guidance can make all the difference in setting one up to make the right decision that could affect the next month or the next few years.


Sarin Bosnoyan, MSOD

People-centered leader with Amgen


We all go at our pace; we all make the best decisions needed for our life during that time and that’s OK! If I only knew then that I can give myself more grace and self-compassion, there would be no room for regrets or second guessing.


If I only knew then those executives were just people too… with the same human drivers and motivations as anyone (yup, including myself!) … it would have made interactions a lot easier and less stressful earlier in my career.


Alyssa Walles

Board director, video game publisher and entertainment executive


I have so much to say on this topic. If I knew then what I know now, I would have worked to find a mentor within the film school. I would have talked with someone/anyone about my career options before accepting the first job offered (because I walked by the Apple One temp agency, and they immediately sent me out on an interview, and I got the job on the spot).


I thought I knew everything – was completely unaware that people might want to help me in my career – I did not know anything and luckily slogged my way out of the junior ranks. I wish someone had counseled me to stay put at Disney… and PlayStation.


Biggest/best advice: find a mentor. Use LinkedIn religiously (finding connections at companies you are targeting) and be intentional in your job search and career choices.


Kate Kjeell

Business owner, long-time friend and former business partner in executive search and consulting


I would tell my younger self that where you start is not always where you end up (spoken as a recovering engineer!). Use every opportunity to find out what you like and more importantly, what you don’t like to do. What gives you energy and leverages your strengths and where you are not as energized or gifted (for me that was writing computer code!). Learn what to do from good bosses and learn what not to do from poor ones. See your career as a journey with twists and turns, not a linear progression, and you will be able to navigate the ups and downs with anticipation and resiliency!


Melissa Baker

CHRO with Providence Healthcare and savvy strategic leader


If I only knew then what I know now…. I only wish I began to think like this when I was entering the workforce. It doesn’t matter what generation you came from, experiences and background you have, forming these three basic principles solidified my trajectory. It took me years to find these three but starting younger would have been a heck of a lot easier in my career.


1. Have joy in your work. Every working person has created value in some way, shape, or form. Ask yourself, how am I creating value and what impact do I make on others?


2. Be a constant learner. Learn from every person you experience in your career and life, for that matter. Each has valuable insight no matter if they are younger or older than you are.


3. Lead without a title and understand what is means to be a servant leader. You don’t need a title to lead, influence, drive change…and always remember, it should always be about the greater good for all – it is not about YOU.


Sara Reindl

Senior program manager & savvy HR strategist at Workday


If I only knew then how important it would be to begin laying the groundwork for a work-life balance. In my first few roles post-grad, I vividly recall living by and commenting on my philosophy that, “Tomorrow will bring more and more to-do’s, so what’s on your plate today should get done today.” This translated to consistently working incredibly long days and weekends, checking Slack and email on my phone around the clock, and taking work calls at all hours of the day. While my career may have been excelling as a result of this level of commitment and dedication, my personal relationships dwindled and my wellbeing plummeted. It took me getting to rock bottom emotionally to recognize the depth of my burnout, which was caused by not finding moments along the way to recharge my batteries.


I have yet to fully figure out the balance in “work-life balance”, but I now understand that my career is a marathon (not a sprint) and healthy boundaries are vital in maintaining endurance along the way. So, if I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be to equally prioritize my wellbeing just as I would prioritize a deliverable at work. These habits only get harder and harder to create as work and personal responsibilities continue to expand, so it’s critical to start early and equally commit to your work AND yourself.


Paul Brubaker

Long-time friend, change leader & executive at Karl Storz


Always say yes to an opportunity, even if it isn’t in your wheelhouse – it’s good to broaden your knowledge in other areas and it makes you more valuable to your company.


Network. Build it and grow it. Not online. In person, one coffee or lunch at a time. True friendships are best developed face to face. It takes time. Keep up with your real connections. Companies split up – keep up with your colleagues, you never know where your next opportunity will come from, and you don’t know when you’ll be able to help one of your former colleagues when they need something.


Show up on-time, work hard, look for the good in every day. Don’t gossip. Share your knowledge, ask others for their viewpoints, and listen. Having worked with many people, the ones who do this are the ones you want on your team.


Above all, live with integrity, trust others, assume the best of intent when others approach you with issues. Without trust and integrity, you have no relationship and no reason to want to work with the person. Exit people from your team ASAP if they are not trustworthy. It is a cancer that can infect all of those around you.


Lastly, try to build your network outside of your silo. If you are in Finance, reach out to Operations. If Ops, reach out to HR or Sales. And if HR, anyone outside of the HR arena will build your understanding of the broader business.


Becky Hoffman

Global VP HR leader and life-long learner for Skyworks


If I only knew then what I know now…it would be to not take myself too seriously, to not stress too much, and to keep reading and connecting with the world outside the company for perspective, balance, and to connect with a strong network. At the end of the day, we’re all humans trying to figure things out and, often, there are others dealing with the same types of issues that one can brainstorm with, learn from and create new solutions with.


Jack Gregg

Professor, author, speaker, and expert on the cosmos


Here are my thoughts about what I wish I knew when I graduated from college a million years ago. Some of these are about career issues and others are about someone (me) still learning about being in the world.


I wish I knew that I had to take charge of my own career and not wait for others to recognize my worth and promote me.


I wish I knew that surviving at work is different from being successful at work. And that both surviving and thriving are achievable when you take control of your career.


I wish I knew that real success comes from knowing who you are and what you value. Success is not something that is defined by an annual review or other artificial metrics.


I wish I knew it was good to fail, to cross the line now and then. Failure brings knowledge about who you are and what is most important to you.


I wish I knew that doing the hard stuff is joyous. It’s the easy stuff that turns your soul to yogurt.


I wish I knew that it is easy to love and respect others. And that loving another becomes easier when you learn to love and respect yourself.


I wish I knew that doing risky things is a lot easier in your twenties or in your seventies than in your thirties but taking risks – win or lose – is the best drug there is.


I wish I knew that life – family, jobs, friends, disappointments, triumphs – is over too quickly. Dwelling on the past subtracts precious time spent on the present and on the fragile future.


Anne Ceruti

Friend, CHRO & passionate about talent and transformation at Savyint


I wish I had known not to let others define the limits, it is important to push traditional boundaries especially as a woman.



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Thank you, friends for sharing your wisdom! Why not imagine yourself ten years from now? It is true that we are all living longer. What does your current self-act on now that will help your older self-thrive in this future? Find a friend to share your thoughts and see what you create.

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