Most business leaders have something they wish they’d known earlier in their careers. Something that would’ve made them more successful or less stressed from the start. Of course, we can’t go back and change the past. But what we can do is learn from the life lessons of others.
It’s only then that top business leaders will be able to strategize their own futures — and we want to be part of that. So, we reached out to business leaders who have learned key lessons throughout their careers. Here’s what they would want their younger selves to know:
1. Accept feedback and constructive criticism
I used to think that I had to change who I was to be an effective leader. Also, that those who gave me feedback or constructive criticism wanted me to fail. In reality, a good leader is one who is able to be themselves and can take feedback in a positive way. The individuals providing you with the critique want you to improve and succeed.
Additionally, knowing my learning style would have saved me a lot of time, stress, and frustration. Every time I tried to improve and learn something new, it would take me either a really long time to absorb it or no time at all. Eventually, I realized, it came down to my learning style and why some methods were more effective for me to learn.
Mike Sheety, Director at ThatShirt
2. Take time for yourself
Like many leaders, life for my younger self would often be stressful, and I was under a lot of pressure. However, I wouldn’t necessarily tell myself ‘don’t worry,’ ‘no pressure,’ ‘everything will be fine,’ or anything like that.
That pressure and stress is often what drives you to do the hard work needed to succeed. Without that pressure or stress, I might not have worked as hard as I did, so I might not have achieved what I have today.
However, that pressure is problematic; it easily leads to you becoming a bit of a workaholic — which isn’t always healthy. The pressure is good, but you need to take your mind off your work occasionally, otherwise, you’ll end up rundown.
Take some time to remember where you are in life and indulge in some quality ‘me time.’ Whether you do this by catching up with friends and family or simply unwinding in front of the television.
3. Network from the start
I always understood the power of networking before I entered the workforce, but being able to actually start the process while in college is easier said than done. It is no secret that it can be intimidating going to job fairs in college, or starting a first job, especially when you may not be entirely sure what you want to do.
At times, I found myself getting so caught up in the idea of networking myself to the right people that I, ultimately, was a little pickier than necessary at times. While I do feel it is important to be selective when choosing who to network with, it’s also about establishing a balance and not being afraid of branching out beyond your desired industry.
You never know who might be able to help you down the road. As soon as I struck that balance of networking to the right people and actually networking enough, I found myself in successful situations far more often.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There are so many people out there. There are so many opportunities and you have no idea what could come from those things if you are just willing to ask.
I was also too scared to say, “Hey, I’m struggling to keep up or to get all the work done.” So, I wasn’t able to get help that would have been freely offered. Today, I remind myself to ask for the support that I need to get through difficulties.
5. Find what is important to you and take risks
Finding what is truly important to you is sometimes difficult. In a corporate setting, it can be even more challenging. It took me a long time to figure out that helping people is my true calling. Luckily, I now have a skill set that enables me to do this in a way not everyone can. If I had figured out that helping people was my true calling, I could have begun many years ago.
Also, take risks sooner. I grew up risk-averse and later found out that being risk-averse is not the way to happiness. Every time something truly amazing has happened in my personal or professional life, it has come after taking a risk. Success won’t fall into your lap, you have to pursue it.
Will Ellis, Senior Technology and IT Security Consultant and Owner of Advocacy Group