This story is from a woman who at age 22 was sitting at the table of an architecture firm running major projects. By her mid-20’s she was part-owner of her own firm. Her advice? Believe in yourself and believe that failure is not an option. Work hard and ask for help! Here is her story:
~ A 40-Something Success Story~
I had a job as an assistant at an architecture firm. When my boss went on maternity leave they gave me a shot at her job. I definitely felt insecure. Suddenly I was running a huge project at age 22. But you know what? It made me work harder. I definitely thought, “OMG, here I am sitting at the table with all these men. I’m the only woman. I’m 22. They’re all 40-plus and I can tell they’re looking at me and saying, ‘You’re taking direction from her?'”
It was a huge team from the architects to the contractors. There were eight departments. I was so committed to it and eager to make it happen. I worked six or seven days a week. I was determined that I would be excellent and earn their respect. I just loved it. And I did a great job.
I think the most important thing is that you have to believe in yourself. That is huge. You have to believe that failure is not an option. We all have our little insecurities, but if you are genuinely timid, it’s going to come out in your job performance.
I knew I had to rely on other people. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I educated myself. I wasn’t scared to ask questions. I wasn’t scared to sit down with the chairman and president and say, “How am I doing?’ Give me an evaluation. What do I need to do?” I let them really advise me and help me learn from them because they had been doing it for years.
That was key. I would go sit down in their office and say, “Tell me about your experience. How did you start out in the business?” I would ask as if they were a mentor. They loved it. They would almost always say, “Come in.” And then they got to know me. I probably did that twice a month and I learned a tremendous amount.
I think a lot of people are scared, especially in their 20s. They are afraid to ask and they don’t. Everybody likes to tell you about their experiences for the most part, especially men. That to me is the biggest advice that people don’t do.
So failure is not an option. Another way of looking at it is that you really have nothing to lose. Just stepping up to the plate is an achievement. The worse thing that can happen is that you’re told no. But likely you will learn what it is that you need to work on to get what you want. What boss is going to look poorly on a young employee who is ambitious and eager to learn? Always ask for a review and don’t mistake this advice for being cocky and asking for a chance without merit. You have to know why you are qualified and be able to prove yourself.
Worst case scenario, which I can’t really imagine, is that you do have to get a new job to achieve what you want. But in your 20s, that is expected. And it really is your choice. Imagine this woman had decided she was in over her head or simply didn’t like the job. Well, she tried it and as a result got a very fast learning curve on a career and was able to determine that was not the direction for her. That’s not such a bad story to tell your next interviewer.
Most 40-something women I talk to who have a little regret about their career look back and say, “What was I so afraid of? I really had nothing to lose. I had the smarts I just was held back by my own insecurities”. Don’t let fear get in the way of what you want.