As only months separate me from my twenty-fifth birthday, I feel myself appreciating where I am, and looking back on the last few years in reflection. My career is a large motivator for me. The choices I have made, and the lessons I have learned have been both surprising and symbolic of development. As I compare my thoughts on things back then versus my thoughts on those things now, it seems as though I was two different beings.
In the past six years, I find it hard to believe that I have planned events for thousands of invitees, climbed the corporate ladder in the public relations realm, or been published internationally – it happened (along with many failures), yet looking back, I sometimes feel surprised in a retrospective manner, as though I was barely there. These were all great moments; however, they were accompanied with many career lessons, some of which were tough to handle at the time. I would like to share one major lesson that I learned, as my goal is to have you learn in three minutes what often takes thousands almost a decade to absorb.
Do not let your age define your capacity to lead.
There, I said it.
As a young person in the business world, you will likely witness people doubting you on occasion, or more experienced co-workers giving you a hard time because they have held a career in this field since you were a small child (trust me, I’ve experienced this). You may even experience discouraging situations, where you are directly belittled for your age, or judged too quickly. I ask that despite what happens, you put your age behind you, and apply your vision and knowledge towards opportunities that can expand your skillset and career, while satisfying you on a cognitive level.
I am here to urge you to push forward, speak candidly and pursue what is possible, because you have no idea what you are capable of achieving, unless you visualize it, strategize it and achieve it.
I cannot express to you how many rejection letters I received regarding pitches I had submitted to academic journals, or how many times I was told to sit out so that the senior “big boys” could play at the boardroom table. Both of these realities were disappointing, but my solution to both of these situations was the same – push forward in visualizing, strategizing and thus, achieve your objectives. I began to pitch more to different mediums, and I began to play more strategically in order to achieve a corporate role at a young age, which would help to define my next few career moves. Had I sat still as hoped for by those around me, my life today would be very different – don’t let your future be defined by those around you.
Another example of redefining young leadership, would be my ultimate decision to found The Liminal Network, an online community designed to give people a chance to educate others on crucial topics, like domestic violence, diverse living, rare illnesses, career advice and experiences that allow readers to think, understand and diminish stigma from our society. This was actually an idea in my head for many years, and I often day dreamed the style and format of the website design, as though this was an invisible hobby and would only ever be just a dream. Many individuals warned me that it would be too much for my early twenties, as by then, I was managing the digital marketing department from a corporate head office, I had a few contributor roles with various publications in my spare time, and I was also looking to pursue my MBA part-time. In ignoring this career advice from those around me, I was able to pursue my objectives directly, plan efficiently and go on to create this positive community, where people join together in support and further develop their creative processes. And I am very happy that I did.
One particular incident comes to my mind during that time. I remember writing a column for the college biannual magazine where I vaguely mentioned that experts write college papers for money and taking their services is a good strategy if you don’t have the time to invest into a research paper. I faced criticism and many even said it was because I was too young and successful. But, it is just how I have always operated. I always speak my mind and do things strategically. It is something I would advise everyone, irrespective of their age – believe in yourself even if it goes against the norm.
Regardless of what you hear, young leaders actually have a major impact on the causes they are affiliated with, whether that is revitalizing processes in order to progress, offering concepts from a new and youthful perspective, and most importantly, inspiring other young people to pursue leadership in their career as well. There will be times where you feel like you are a weak link next to those with decades of experience, but I assure you that you have concepts and value that they would benefit from, in learning from you.
Please remind yourself of this during the day at work, and remember the value and the power that you hold, at any age. Your value is in your thoughts and what you can execute, not in a number.
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