Dear 17 year old me:
I found an old work badge recently and it made me pause and reflect on the 20+ year career I’ve had between then and now. It made me think of all of the life and career lessons I’ve faced along the way, and what advice I would have given to my 17 year old self.
After running a lucrative babysitting empire, doing a stint as an Avon lady and a weekend job in a fruit shop, I progressed onto my most defining role at 17. My 5 years in Safeway gave me many opportunities, from trolley collector to category management and earmarked the real start of my varied and rewarding career.
Since this time I have done many things in my personal life; graduated college, moved countries, got married and brought two amazing children into the world. Meanwhile in my career I have had many successful roles across a range of industries and levels. It certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing – I’ve had both some fantastic highs and made (and learned from) many mistakes along the way.
Looking back now, I’m in a role I love after half a lifetime of lessons, but I still think back to that defining time with fond memories. Here are some of the words of wisdom I would have shared with that 17 year old me as I embarked on my journey. These are inspired by some sayings I use on a regular basis and those who have worked with me will know them well….
JUST BE YOURSELF
Don’t always fall in with what you think you should be or what the party line you’re ‘supposed to say’ is. Don’t lose who you are in the process of scurrying up the career ladder and resist succumbing to the corporate culture if it doesn’t fit your values. Have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously and wear a bit of colour!
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
If you never take a risk you’ll never make mistakes… but life would be very boring. Accept the losses and lows as learning opportunities. Chin up and move on. ‘Onwards and upwards’ is a mini mantra of mine, directly instilled in me from my parents who have always had my back, no matter what
OH THE PLACES YOU’ll GO
Go after what you want. You will likely encounter people who try to hold you back and say you can’t. But along the way you might be lucky enough to build a mini network of supporters and champions who cheer you on from the sidelines. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s down to you to manage your own destiny
You don’t always need a plan – wing it and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Who knows if it will work? If you don’t try then you’ll never know
PUT ON YOUR BODY ARMOUR
Learn how to be resilient. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you’ll win and others will be jealous. Sometimes you’ll be overlooked or passed by for reasons inside or outside your control. It’s okay to have a little wobble but put your body armour on and get right back in the race. If it’s too hard too often then rethink your options
GET SH1T DONE
Working hard gets results in the right job and working with the right people. Don’t give your blood, sweat and tears for people who don’t deserve you! And don’t give the naysayers a second glance.
SORRY NOT SORRY
Don’t ever apologise for having high standards. Who doesn’t want to either be on the delivering or receiving end of your best possible work? Anything less just isn’t good enough.
LET THEM FLY
Managing people isn’t easy but can also be very rewarding. Sometimes there’s tough conversations, other times there’s the need to push people out of their own comfort zones and show them what they are capable of. Then there’s the joy of seeing people progress and thrive and move on with their own careers. Give them the tools and the opportunities and let them fly.
Check back with me in 20 more years when I’ll be sharing my updated words of wisdom from a sunbed in the Bahamas whilst enjoying my retirement!
Deputy MD, Spark