Read as Roxanne Alvarez, Manager of Business and Partnerships at Girls & Women at the United Nations Foundation, reflects on her life and gives some advice she would share with her younger self if given the chance!
Reflecting on my recent professional past is an exercise I have gotten pretty good at lately. I am at a point in my career now when I am thinking of next steps, while appreciating what I did to get to where I am today. As part of that reflection and appreciation, I have often considered what I would tell my younger self about life and work, if I had the chance. So as part of a mentoring meeting I had with a young lady I mentored in Washington, D.C. this past year, I had us each write a letter to our younger selves. I asked that this letter include our top tips/advice for reaching our own goals. Interestingly enough, we each wrote our letters to our former selves just out of college. This is what I wrote:
Congratulations on your college graduation! I know you think you have many of the tools you will need to tackle the world in life and work, and much of what you have learned so far will be handy. However, there are still some practical lessons I want to be sure to share with you in hopes of alleviating some of your greatest anxieties, while also alerting you to how much you still have to learn. This latter action may cause you more anxieties, but you should probably just get used to anxiety about the future being part of everyone’s future. So, in no particular order, I offer you the benefits of my hindsight:
- Your work ethic and some lucky breaks will serve you well over time – keep your eyes open to opportunities and be risk-tolerant enough to seize them;
- Always trust your gut, it never lies to you;
- Follow your passions, but don’t be so serious all of the time. Take time out to enjoy your family and friends as they won’t be around always;
- Don’t think about burning bridges so quickly – I know it is tempting to say “good riddance”, but sometimes you do have to walk on them again, unfortunately;
- Learn about financial matters sooner rather than later in your life and plan for your own retirement much sooner than you think you need to;
- Stay away from toxic people at work and in life – they will only weigh you down and confuse the direction you want to take;
- It is good to keep traveling as much as you can– that curiosity about the world is not a mistake and will serve you well in the future;
- It’s okay not to be 100% sure of what you want, just be flexible and open to learning always;
- Just as it is fine not to be absolutely certain of what you want all of the time, it’s also fine to fail sometimes (and admit it), as long as you apply what you have learned going forward;
- Pay attention to who your true friends are and continue not to mix business and friendships;
- Your self-confidence will carry you far – don’t lose it for anything or anyone; and
- Keep in mind, you don’t find a mentor, real mentors find you. How does it work? Continue to invest in yourself and become someone worth investing in and supporting. You will be fortunate to get the guidance of some amazing professionals! Just be ready to pay that professional generosity forward.
I know you want the world to be fair and to feel as though hard work will pay off, and generally it will! But you should also know that there are many factors in the workplace in particular, but even in life in general, that you will not be able to control. That will frustrate you from time to time, but the best suggestion I have for you from where I am is this: As long as you are always working on projects and with organizations aligned with your values, you will always feel successful.