I try to learn something new every week/month, be a different person than the one-month-ago me.
The learning itself doesn’t need to be intellectual or vocational; it doesn’t need to be getting new skills or changing mindset. It can be just simply knowing a new dance move ( zumba, for example!), or just having read a book on improving how to communicate with people. It can be anything either leading me to personal growth, or just simply making me happy. The difficulty in that is, keeping up the consistency to do so. That little enhancement in myself that comes from learning something new is what success is to me.
I have been working as a consultant for a long time now, starting in an agency in China 10 years ago. I was a high performer at that time, particularly skilled in stakeholder management, both internally and externally. I was proud of it.
8 years ago, I moved to the Sydney office due to family reasons. I found it difficult to assimilate to my new environment as I know longer felt influential within my new market due to my weaker command of the English language. I soon lost my confidence to be innovative and rarely spoke my mind. After 2 years of this, filled with the fear of stagnating, I knew I needed a role change.
When I landed my new role, I realised that:
I try to unlock more of my capabilities in every job. I had been in consulting agencies for years to learn my analytical skills. I then changed to a client side to get more exposure of different data sources and see things from a bigger picture perspective. And for my current role, besides letting me integrate information at a high level, it gives me a chance to try my hand at strategic planning as well.
I have 3 pieces of advice for all professionals not just females:
1. GET STARTED
It is quite often that we are advised to find our own destiny and goal in life. There is nothing wrong with it. However, as young professionals, we lack experience to define a perfect direction for our whole career life or personal development. Sometimes it leads to a hesitation on making tough decisions resulting in putting unnecessary pauses in our life.
Instead, I would suggest, no matter what, get started and try. Getting started and trying things would lead us to a fast feedback and improvement loop. Get started, if it works, reinforce it. If it doesn’t, then you have a lesson to learn from. Either you know the area is not for you and then you can try other direction, or it makes you review, analyse and improve yourself to try again. The loop gives you more and more experience to cope with issues and gives you more clarity of where you should go.
2. CAPABILITY > HARD SKILLS > KNOWLEDGE
When it comes to learning, most people would refer to a knowledge or a hard skill (Python, Excel…). I would reckon that it is more important to improve capability, which is more likely to be used to define your value. Some examples of capabilities would be: self-control, time management, compassion, logical thinking etc. Although in the short run, they would not immediately bring you financial benefit, but in the long run, they support you to go further.
3. LEARNING IS NOT JUST AN INPUT, IT IS AN OUTPUT
It happens to most of the professionals with an Asian background. As we are brought up to be of a specific mindset, I got used to thinking that learning is to only acquire knowledge. As knowledgeable as you are, applying these skills into your everyday life is where the learning continuous. If you really want to learn something, make sure at the end you practice it to make a difference - focus on solutions and bringing in value.
I believe everyone has his/her own journey. My career path has not been smooth and there definitely has been a lot of challenges. However, I think that all the temporary failure is a chance for you to realise where your can improve and do things better. The biggest failure sometimes can urge you the most to start taking action for a better you.
The thing that I would've done differently is to engage with a mentor and have a support system set in place so I could have avoided making some mistakes and perhaps fast-tracked my success.