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My three biggest career regrets

If you were to look at most people’s career trajectory, it generally rises over time, but zoom in a little and you’ll probably see some dips or a drop along the way. The upside to those dips is that a set-back in life can be a fantastic opportunity for learning and growth. In hindsight, you may even come to see that the valuable learning opportunities provided by the drop gave you the tools you needed to achieve something amazing, or the confidence to try something out of the box that really paid off.

Here are my three biggest career regrets to date, and the lessons I learnt from each of them.

  1. Look after yourself. I turned down a phone interview for an incredible sounding job with an arts organisation in Hobart because I didn’t think I could sneak out of work for the call. It was in my early days in the workforce and I just didn’t understand that you need to look after yourself when job hunting is at play. Of course I always advocate leaving on good terms when you do move on, but I didn’t realise in that scenario that I needed be less passive if I was ever going to get another job.

Lesson: Nobody is going to look out for you in the same way that you will look out for yourself. You need to be your strongest advocate and do whatever is in your power to make things happen. 

  1. Never under-prepare for interviews. I have done this on a couple of occasions, by underestimating the advantage of interview preparation in helping you to successfully win a role. I went in full of boundless enthusiasm and thought that would carry me through to success (and, to be fair, that has often been enough). I hadn’t really done any research on the role or the company, and I certainly hadn’t done any preparation in terms of practising typical interview questions, in order to get a feel for what my key strengths were and why I thought I would be a good fit for the role.

Lesson: You can never be over prepared. You won’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked in an interview, but if you have spent some time contemplating the proffered role from several different angles, and how it may relate to your skills and experience, then you’ll be well placed to answer any questions on the fly that you hadn’t expected.

  1. Think carefully before turning down a job. I had just started university and in my search for work, I submitted my resume to a nearby chocolate factory (yes, really) because I had heard from a friend that if you worked there you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted. They called me up, but I had too many contact hours at uni, so I wasn’t able to take the job. It was almost twenty years ago, but to be honest, I am still heartbroken over it!

Lesson: If you have a dream/goal/vision, then chase it with every particle of your body. Perhaps I could have gone part-time, or considered dropping out of uni altogether. In any case I should have done WHATEVER it took to get that job and fulfil my dream to eat all the chocolate I wanted.

What are some of your career regrets? What lessons have you learned?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench

3 non-business books that will improve your confidence at work

The other day I was having a conversation with someone about confidence in the workplace. I mentioned a book that I read a number of years ago on the subject which really changed the way I think about confidence, and gave me an armful of useful tools that I found incredibly helpful. This got me thinking about other books I recommend people read, so I’ve put together my top three work-and business-related books. These are not your run-of-the-mill, dry, ‘serious’ reads. They are not even books you would find in the business section of a bookshop. But they are books that are worth reading because they provide wonderful insights into the world @work, and how we can perform as our best selves at work.

The Confidence GapThe Confidence Gap, Russ Harris
Written by psychologist Russ Harris, The Confidence Gap is the perfect book for anyone who feels they are being held back by a lack of confidence.  Harris has written an approachable, easy-to-read book that explores how a lack of confidence can affect many areas of a person’s life, and looks at real, clear suggestions to work through it. It’s not an easy book to read in the sense that if you really want to make changes in this area you will have to have some tough, honest conversations with yourself. But it is easy in the sense that it is written in clear language, and breaks down complex concepts into easily understandable stories and ideas.

QuietQuiet, Susan Cain
This book explains what introverts are, how they tick, and what the pitfalls of introvert/extrovert interactions can be. I would recommend this books for introverts, extroverts and anyone who isn’t sure where they fall on the spectrum (but would like to figure this out). Cain looks at how the business world, especially in America, has for almost a century, celebrated extroverts and build a system that favours their personalities and mode of working. Cain argues that because this system is not designed for introverts, it is difficult and often tiring for them to navigate. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible for an introvert to not merely navigate, but to thrive in a world of extroverts. Cain provides tools and techniques for introverts negotiating the extroverted world of business, and for introverts and extroverts to figure out how best they can work together.

Unfinished BusinessUnfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter
This book is (in my opinion) a sort of unofficial sequel to Lean In, the blockbuster work memoir written by Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg in 2013. It’s a look at how work-life balance is something worth striving for, but that the make-up of that balance may change over time. Slaughter says that it’s important to ‘lean in’ at times, but that it is just as important and necessary to be able to lean out at times too. She advocates for a world where we can accept a promotion and work like the devil for a couple of years, then dial things back for another couple of years, perhaps  to care for family members, or pursue study. Slaughter writes passionately and persuasively for her vision of a flexible and changing attitude to work over our lifetimes.

What are your top reads for personal and professional development?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work