Job Seeker Secrets

 

Rachel Esterline Perkins and Morgan MacDermaid share their job seeker secrets — from determining your values to ensure you take the right role to finding opportunities within your network and online. 

A few tips from the episode include: 

  • Don’t get your self-actualization from your career.
  • Take some time to think about what you want in your career, what type of companies you want to work for, and what you value most. 
  • Start your job search with your network. Talk to your professors, your friends, and your colleagues because some jobs are never listed. 
  • Indeed and LinkedIn can be great for getting a sense for what’s out there, but it’s often best to apply directly through the company’s website. 
  • Follow your gut. If a role doesn’t feel like a fit, it’s OK to respectfully turn down the offer. 
  • If you are waiting on a competing offer, it’s OK to ask for a few days. But, tread carefully because you don’t want to lose the original offer if the other offer doesn’t work out. 

Listen on to get more insights on finding the right job for you. 

Want the workbook mentioned in the episode? Join us on Patreon

Resume Reveal: Hiring Managers Share Tips & Tricks

 

In their first collaborative episode as cohosts, Morgan MacDermaid and Rachel Esterline Perkins share their tips, tricks, and pet peeves as hiring managers. 

Morgan reviews upwards of 300 resumes a month as a recruiter for a broad range of roles and Rachel has spent time deeply involved in hiring for marketing and communications roles in her current and previous roles. Listen on to hear their perspectives on resumes. 

And as promised during the episode, here are our resumes side-by-side:

Rachel's Resume

Morgan's resume

 

 

 

 

Randi Shaffer: There is never going to be an ideal time. The universe is never going to align and say this is your next move ... just just go for it.

 

Randi Shaffer never wants to look back and wonder what would have happened if she would have followed the path she wanted. From working at the Chicago Tribune to serving in the Peace Corps in Ukraine to firefighter school in Flagstaff, Randi’s career has been an incredible adventure. 

“One of my big mentalities is I want to know the ‘what if…’ And if you don’t take those jumps, if you don’t take those risks, you will never know the ‘what if…”

In this episode, she shares:

  • How she applied for hundreds of jobs before being hired as a social media assistant at the Chicago Tribune
  • Why she quit her “dream job” to join the Peace Corps
  • What it was like to be in Ukraine at the start of the pandemic
  • Her advice for career pivots during times of uncertainty

Randi also shares her perspective on generational shifts in the workplace and how she had to take a step back to areas she had skipped over in her laser-focused career pursuits in her twenties. After months of unemployment due to the pandemic, Randi leveraged her life and career experiences and landed as a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service. 

As a former journalist, Randi shares critical career advice for young professionals — including for those in journalism who want to stay in the field or leave to try something else. 

“I truly thought that it would take me until my 40s to even get to any kind of media position in Chicago. So when I checked that box at the age of 26, I was like, ‘I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life.'”

Randi’s venturesome advice:

“There is never going to be an ideal time. The universe is never going to align and say this is your next move. If you want to trave, don’t wait for friends. Just do it by yourself. If you want to take the jump moving in a career, don’t plot everything out in a calendar and make sure everything goes to plan. Just take that job. If you have the resources and if you have the support system, just just go for it.”

You can follow Randi on Twitter or read her blog, Randi with an i.

Support for Ukraine

As mentioned early in the episode, Randi shared two charities that support Ukrainians affected by the war: 

If you enjoyed this episode and Randi’s advice, I’d encourage you to give what you can. 

  

 

 

 

 

Taking Your Own Path

 

I recently had the opportunity to do a 360 review — which is a fascinating (and slightly terrifying) opportunity to ask your colleagues to give you feedback. One commenter said they wanted to know more about what I’ve done to get to where I am today. I decided to use this as an opportunity to revive the Venturesome Podcast with Morgan MacDermaid in the interviewer’s seat.

Listen to the episode and scroll on below for answers to additional questions. 

What were you like as a kid?

Rachel as a child holding a chickenI was extremely quiet, shy and sensitive as a kid. My younger brother and I spent our childhood outside — building forts in the woods, driving a quad on our trails and riding horses. I loved animals, so we had a menagerie of ponies, kittens, chickens, goats, rabbits and once even baby raccoons that we bottle-fed after their mother was killed. I started showing horses when I was 8, and spent every summer in the saddle until I left for college. 

Those who know me well joke about my organization skills. What’s funny is I’ve always been this way. I alphabetized my books and color coordinated my closet. I created a schedule one summer break to plan for the optimal day, which included riding by bike for an hour followed by jumping on the trampoline. Don’t even get me started on how my 64-pack of crayons were organized by color (and how annoyed I would get when people would borrow crayons and return them to the wrong section). 

Rachel's senior photoWhat was the first ever job you had?

When I was 13, I worked for my mom’s friend who took ponies to kids’ birthday parties and festivals. I saved up enough money to buy my first computer that first summer! 

In college, I worked as a carriage driver in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It was a physically demanding and exhausting job requiring 12 hour days outside in the elements. Because I gave tours, the job helped me refine my public speaking and people skills. 

I also made money in high school by selling horses for people. For a commission, I would list the horse online, design and print flyers and manage the phone calls. 

How did you end up in PR and marketing? 

It wasn’t until I took journalism and broadcasting in high school that I found my confidence. I’d always been a strong writer and I enjoyed taking on the “hard-hitting investigative” stories. My teacher, Jenifer Tong, helped develop my passion for storytelling and named me editor-in-chief of the student newspaper during my senior year.

Mrs. Tong supported all of my crazy ideas. I once sifted through the school handbook and discovered that my school wasn’t conducting tornado and fire drills as required. So, I interviewed the principal about it and quoted him claiming the school met the requirements. I also did a story to determine what door handle in the school was the germiest. Turns out the main office door was dirtier than a toilet seat!

How did you end up at Central Michigan University?

Because I knew I’d be paying for college on my own, I told myself I couldn’t attend unless I knew my major. I remember having college programs spread across my bed, highlighter in hand. One program that I starred was CMU’s integrative public relations major. The core courses incorporated the areas that interested me — including journalism, broadcasting and communications, and had electives in business and advertising. 

My experience at Central built the foundation I needed to succeed in my career. I became involved in the Public Relations Student Society of America and served as press secretary of the Student Government Association my senior year. I also completed a couple of internships. 

If you hadn’t gone into PR, what type of career do you think you would be doing?

As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian and I wanted to be an FBI agent in junior high. In college, I took an archaeology course in my first semester and I found the topic  fascinating. I think if I hadn’t already been focused on my career path in PR, I might have considered it as a major. 

What has been your favorite role and why?

My time at CMU as associate director of PR and social media was really special to me. I loved interviewing faculty about their expertise to write stories for CMU News. I always sought out unique stories, such as the professor who taught a religion course called “From Revelation to The Walking Dead” and the anthropology student who was 3-D printing fossils.

CMU is also where I first became a manager. I took over the internship program, giving me the opportunity to mentor and train four to five students each semester. So far I’ve managed over 30 interns in my career. 

Rachel riding her horseIs there one single thing you think propelled your career?

I’ve always had a relentless drive that I think was instilled in me by my dad. I’m a first-generation high school and college graduate, so I already had to navigate so much on my own just to get through college. I approached my career with that same level of intensity. In hindsight, I think that also contributed to some of my past experiences with burnout. 

I’m also convinced that my years of riding and showing horses helped build a foundation for my skills. I learned to work hard and how to recover from failure with grace. You need to have a lot of patience and empathy to work with horses. 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given? 

This was a hard one for me to answer on the podcast, but I took some more time to think about it. A lot of the best advice I’ve been given came from my dad

I also have a lot of mentors who have given me great advice over the years and I think the best advice often involves your mentor asking you a lot of questions to help you get to the right answer for you. 

What has been the toughest experience of your career?

When I was at CMU, I had to deal with some pretty tough situations involving student deaths and other crises. Aside from that, I tend to find that the bad experiences — the tough days, bad managers and high stakes projects gone awry — have all made me stronger and better in the end. As much as I hated the experience in the moment, I am thankful I had them in the end.

What would you have done different?

In hindsight, there have definitely been times I haven’t handled things in the best way. There are a lot of things that I’d change looking back, including how I’ve reacted to certain situations. But all of my missteps have still led me to where I am today, so I try not to focus too much on what I could have done different. 

I also wish that I’d ventured off course a bit more in college. I was so focused on building my career that I didn’t become involved in student activities that weren’t related to my major. Everything I did was solely for the purpose of ensuring I’d get a good job after college. If I could go back, I’d join the equestrian team and take more classes outside my major. 

Where do you see yourself in the future?

This is a tough question. After over a decade of trying to predict and shape my future career path, I’ve been trying to take a more relaxed approach. I want to focus on the now rather than worrying constantly if what I am doing will get me to the next step. I also have been realizing the importance of balance and giving myself the space for things that aren’t related to my career. 

What venturesome advice would you give your younger self?

You are exactly where you need to be right now. Early in my career, I constantly worried I was falling behind. Other people always had these cool jobs and cool experiences. They were getting hired at big-name corporations or making double what I was bringing in. I was living in a small town, often working for small organizations or universities. Looking back, the experience I gained at those organizations helped propel me in the right direction. You need to focus on taking your own path — not the path others are on. 

 

Wanderlust and living a life you love with Morgan MacDermaid

 

Morgan MacDermaid used to spend hours in the travel section of the library, looking at all the places she could go. In college, she had her first chance to board a plane and her study abroad in Italy changed the course of her life. 

After graduation, she traded the possibility of a corporate cubicle for adventure. Morgan has traveled to over 40 countries around the world, slept in a tent across Alaska and moved to St. Thomas when she only knew a single person on the island.

Wanderlust
/ˈwändərˌləst/
a strong desire to travel

When the pandemic hit, her world was turned upside down. She came back to Michigan for a stint, bought a car and set off to drive across the United States before leveraging her global experiences to land a jobs as a logistics coordinator and recruiter in Tennessee. 

For the first time, she shares the full story of how she went from neuroscience major to fashionista and global nomad, and the rejections that led her to her new career as a recruiter. 

Get career advice and the transcript to this episode as a Patron

If you enjoyed this episode, check out Patreon to get workbooks, resources and transcripts

 

 

Mastering Project Management

 

Thinking back as far as high school, I was never a fan of “group projects.” I’m a Type A perfectionist with what my friend Emily lovingly refers to as “control strengths.” 

In college I would volunteer to write an entire paper on my own rather than relying on a group to help get the job done right. Sometimes I would end up rewriting an entire section of a paper or adding quite a bit to ensure the paper hit all the marks.  

But, by the time I hit my senior year, I was incredibly frustrated by the missed deadlines and poorly written work that would occur when someone was coasting in a project or lacked attention to detail. The final straw was when a classmate added a single run-on paragraph to our group’s communications plan in a senior PR capstone class. I was done picking up the pieces. I sent the paper on to the professor with a note about who produced each section, not bothering to write the pages of research we needed for his section of the paper. 

Fortunately, I’ve found “group” projects to be a much smoother experience in the workplace, where team members collaborate, meet deadlines and assign parts of the project based on strengths and workloads. I can confidently say I’ve never experienced group project disasters like I did in high school or college. 

Over the past few years, I’ve mentored college students and am reminded of the groupwork struggle. It has made me realize we’re failing to teach most college students a critical career skill: Project management. 

The most important part of a successful project isn’t the creative strategy or the final product printed on slick paper. It’s project management. Without project management, entire campaigns can crumble. 

Even if you don’t have “project manager” in your official job title, you are very likely a project manager at some level. Whether you’re a student working on a group presentation or a young professional pulling together an event, you might:

  • Serve as the liaison between the client and the team
  • Set expectations and deadlines
  • Plan checkpoints to ensure project progresses
  • Hold team members accountable for their deliverables
  • Organize meetings, agendas, information and notes
  • Pull together various elements of the project into one file or document
  • Ensure the full project is delivered by the deadline
  • Oversee both the big picture and day-to-day tasks of the project

Whether you’re officially managing a project or simply helping implement a piece of a campaign, here are five tips to help ensure you master project management.

1. Start with a plan

Before you get started, you need a roadmap. To begin planning your project you must understand the scope including the goals, audience, product, budget, timeline, sequencing and approvals that will bring the project together. 

Sometimes, as you develop a plan, you hit roadblocks or uncover new questions. This helps you anticipate potential issues, investigate alternative options, and gets stakeholders to clarify what they really want. 

At this point in the project planning process, it is also important to set basic expectations for the team, such as expected response time to emails and text messages, who will take notes during meetings and who will send follow-ups to the entire group as needed. 

2. Develop a realistic timeline 

After working through your goals and the strategies and tactics you’ll need to meet them, it’s important to work backward from the final date the project needs completed. What actions need to be taken to get there? How long will approvals take? How much time do you need to set aside for elements that could cause you to miss a deadline, such as printing or mailing?

The most important thing to remember in this phase: Underpromise, over-deliver. 

There’s no excuse to miss deadlines and no reason to pull an all-nighter if you plan ahead. With your timeline laid out in front of you, you will know your deadlines well in advance and should be well equipped to prepare for them.

Your timeline can be created in a shared Google Doc calendar or you can use a more sophisticated tool, like Asana (my personal favorite). 

3. Expect the unexpected 

As you work through the project’s tactics and the approvals, it might feel like there is nothing left to do but sit back and wait for Murphy’s Law to take over. 

All projects experience bumps in the road. Throughout the planning process, you have already anticipated the potential problems that could arise and built in extra padding in your timeline. If a problem pops up, take a moment, breathe and work through solutions with your team.

4. Follow up and follow through 

First, know you will likely have to follow up with people — sometimes several times — to get things done. For example, you may need to follow up to: 

  1. Set up a meeting, phone call or Zoom
  2. Ask for a review or approval on a document
  3. Have a colleague complete a key part of the project
  4. Check in with a vendor
  5. Make sure a deadline isn’t missed

As a project manager, it can be frustrating because it feels as if the success of the project falls on your shoulders. However, this project may not be a top priority or top-of-mind for some others who are involved. In most cases, people will appreciate your persistence in making sure the project gets done.  

Second, always follow through. There have been many times a person has committed to sending an agenda, a document or other materials during a meeting, and days go by without the item hitting my inbox. Committing to an action without following through erodes trust and credibility. Keep track of what you commit to do before, during and after meetings, and always follow through. 

5. Execute a project post-mortem

So much learning occurs when you reflect on your successes and failures. After the project is complete, reflect on how you could have better planned ahead, solved problems, minimized miscommunications and managed a more successful project. 

Learn more about project management as a Patron

This month I’ll be uploading a video workshop about project management on Patreon. It will only be available to patrons at the Curious, Fearless and Fierce levels.

Check out our Patreon to get access to this workshop and other special resources

A special thank you to CMU student Rachel Bednarz for helping draft this post when she was volunteering with Venturesome through a class project. She definitely had to follow up with me several times to get projects done! 

Building trust in the remote workplace

 

Trust. Credibility. Respect. Transparency. Communication. 

Building strong relationships with your coworkers, managers and senior leaders will be critical to your success during your tenure with an organization. And, if you’re working remotely, it’s a little bit harder to build those relationships. 

Here are five tips from eight professionals who work in a variety of industries including health care, law, nonprofit, education and business on how you can be intentional in your actions to build relationships and develop trust with your new colleagues. 

1. Join the social events. 

You might not love Zoom happy hours, but it’s important to make an appearance and engage with your new colleagues — even if you only stick around for 20 minutes.  

Even as an introvert, I recognize the importance of being intentional with making connections,” said Jon Humiston, an instructional designer at ansrsource. 

Their company has a Yammer group for socializing and monthly virtual social hour. 

“Making personal connections is challenging when folx aren’t popping in and out of offices or bumping into each other in the hallway,” they said. “It’s important to take the time to participate, so my colleagues and I can get to know each other.”

Octavia Carson, Esq., judicial law clerk at the U.S. Department of Justice, said virtual events — including game nights, happy hours and Christmas parties — and social distanced outings helped facilitate connections among her team. 

“I believe you build relationships by taking time to get to know your colleagues outside of work,” she said.

2. Spark small talk. 

Share personal updates every so often to help people get to know you. 

They don’t need a rundown of everything you did over the weekend, but a small tidbit can humanize you and possibly even allow someone to connect with you one-on-one about a shared hobby or interest,” said Matt DeVries, marketing director at the Midland Business Alliance. “It helps create that sense of camaraderie in the workplace without sharing a workspace.”

Tanjae Chairse, media coordinator at Gage Cannabis, recommends asking your colleagues questions beyond the 9-to-5. 

“For instance, my counterpart lives in Canada. I ask her about Canadian culture all the time,” they said. “Another connection I made with a coworker was telling my team about my pronouns. Through that, a colleague reached out to me and we connected over being queer. Small tidbits like that can lead to camaraderie.”

When communicating through email or chat, be conscious of how your words may be perceived. 

“Be careful with your tone in your communications, especially if the team has not had a chance to get to know you yet” Humiston said. “Sarcasm can be funny, but it doesn’t always translate well in written communication.”

3. Be open.

One of the challenges of working remotely is that all interactions have to be intentional. 

“Solid relationships will be established through honesty and trust, but interaction will be limited,” said Myla Edmond, associate vice president for communications and marketing at California State University-Dominguez Hills. “This will require possibly being more open sooner than you may have been when you were engaging with people daily and in-person.”

Liz Rouech, communications specialist at Bastian Solutions, encourages new remote employees to ask questions. While you may feel awkward sometimes, the perfect time to ask questions is in your first few weeks and the team is expecting them. 

A new person with 100 questions makes a much larger impression than one who says nothing,” she said. 

Liz recommends doing introductions in new meetings and letting people know you’re available to chat all day, essentially creating a “virtual open door” policy.  

4. Do the work

If someone needs help, offer to assist, says Anna Kendall, social media specialist at Priority Health.

“Volunteering to quickly edit something or take on another small project can go a long way toward building goodwill with your coworkers,” she said. 

Erik Schreur, veteran engagement and compliance coordinator and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan said he quickly earned trust and respect with his colleagues by taking initiative. 

“The single greatest way I have found to build relationships in a virtual environment is having ‘working meetings’ — essentially a block of time to just have a video call open and chat with your colleagues while working independently or together. These working meetings in a way create the illusion of being in the office. Keep your camera on though. Nothing kills a virtual call’s energy faster than everyone turning off their cameras.”

5. Avoid assumptions. 

“Don’t assume everyone’s gender identity based on their name or the way they are dressed,” Humiston said. “If you’re not sure what pronouns a person uses, ask! I also put my pronouns in my email signature, so my colleagues knew what they were.” 

They also recommend checking to make sure you are pronouncing names correctly, especially if you work for a global company. 

What are your tips for building trust, developing relationships and strengthening credibility in the remote workplace?

RELATED:

Blog post: How to rock your remote job

Patreon download (all tiers): Building trust with your new coworkers
This download includes an outreach template and 10 questions you can ask to build relationships and trust with your new coworkers.

 

How to rock your new remote job

 

Many professionals — including myself — have recently faced the challenge of starting a new job remotely. I’ve never met my new team in person and I’ve never seen our office. 

The remote workplace comes with many benefits, and you need to be intentional about addressing each challenge — including building relationships and trust, finding the right routine, setting up your home office, being proactive and asking questions. 

Below, eight professionals — who work in a variety of industries including health care, law, nonprofit, education and business — share their tips for successfully starting a new remote job. 

 

Liz RouechLiz Rouech, communications specialist
Bastian Solutions
“When starting a new job remotely, be sure to schedule time with each person you’ll work directly with, one-on-one, over video. Take an hour to chat about work history, personal aspects of your life you’re comfortable sharing, etc. It might feel awkward at first, but you’re essentially forcing your first week’s worth of ‘water cooler talk’ that you won’t get from going to your kitchen sink.”  

 

Octavia Carson, Esq.Octavia Carson, Esq., judicial law clerk
U.S. Department of Justice 
“Put together your work area in the most organized and comfortable way at the outset. If you decorate the walls and add storage and work supplies, you will feel more excited about getting started. Ask your employer what type of things they can supply you for your work-from-home needs. Some jobs give you all of the office supplies you need and others may give you an allowance towards office supplies.”

 

Erik Schreur Erik Schreur, veteran engagement and compliance coordinator
Habitat for Humanity of Michigan
“In a remote environment, especially if organizations do not have a virtual training plan established, ask questions and ask to shadow others. In my first days, it was information overload, but in a good way. It has helped me gain a solid foundation of my role and others’ roles and it builds trust and respect within your new team.”

 

Anna Kendall Anna Kendall, social media specialist 
Priority Health
“You have to be really honest when you don’t understand something. There are a lot of workplace nuances that get lost in the virtual workspace, so people you work with might assume you get it right away because it’s pretty simple to learn in person. Speak up, even if you have to ask multiple times and schedule a working session with someone to really dive into it. Don’t be afraid to ask for hands-on help. Yes, your coworkers are likely busy and stressed, but they’re also probably really happy to have you on their team and want to make sure you feel confident in your role. They will make the time to help and being proactive about it will save everyone time later.” 

 

Jon HumistonJon Humiston, instructional designer 
ansrsource
“As you’re onboarded, be patient with yourself and the company. Write down all your questions as you’re getting onboarded, so you can review them with your supervisor or mentor. Keep a strict schedule. It’s easy to skip a bit of lunch to finish a project or to work a few hours in the evenings because your workstation is close. Don’t do this. Also, you’ll be sitting a lot, so prepare to build in times for walking and exercise and stick to those break times. In terms of equipment, set up a nice workstation, invest in a comfortable chair and order a good headset (headphones and microphone) to minimize background noise while you are on video calls.” 

 

Myla EdmondMyla Edmond, associate vice president for communications and marketing
California State University-Dominguez Hills
“Ask your new colleagues how they communicate with one another and use those tools rather than what you prefer or are comfortable using. Be open to different ways of engaging that may not have happened (or happened so soon in the onboarding process) during pre-COVID-19 times like sharing your cell phone number or having conversations about coping with working from home. Be patient with yourself and others as you try to build rapport on teams that have already established that rapport in-person.”

 

Tanjae ChairseTanjae Chairse, media coordinator
Gage Cannabis
“Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs and set boundaries. I experienced burnout early on because I thought I could handle everything, especially since I was at home. Remember that home and work are two separate things, despite sharing a space. If you know you need a hard cut-off at 6 p.m. or need a few hours to decompress before jumping into a huge project, let your team know. The key is to integrate work into home, so set a routine and be flexible.”

 

Matt DeVries Matt DeVries, marketing director 
Midland Business Alliance
“A lot of people have shared that developing a routine is a way to stay on track. Wake up at the same time, shower and get dressed like you would any other normal job or workday. I think those things can work and help certain people. But, depending on your organization’s philosophy about schedules, sometimes working periodically throughout the day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. may work better. It’s all about finding what works best for you and allows you to be the most productive.”

 

UP NEXT:

Our next post will focus on specific strategies for building relationships and trust with your new coworkers. Be sure to follow @VenturesomePod on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest posts.

 

Setting boundaries and achieving life-work balance with Lily Allen-Dueñas

Lily Allen-Dueñas serves as the interim executive director of the The State of Women Institute and a holistic health and wellness coach, yoga teacher and meditation instructor. She’s also a master at setting boundaries and life-work balance. 

In this episode, Lily and I talk about the importance of prioritizing your life before work, strategies for achieving life-work balance, and how to set boundaries at work to prevent burnout. 

Want more advice on being ambitious, brave and curious in your career?

Join us on Patreon for special patron-only benefits. 

This month, patrons receive worksheets that help them with self-reflection and identifying their workplace values. You can join for as little as $1 a month.   

Become a Patron! 

Learn more about the initiatives Lily discussed

Amplifying Her Voice: From climate change to self care, racism to financial literacy, the “In Moms We Trust” summit covers a broad range of topic. Sessions also feature women in the space industry, blockchain, podcasting and more. I’ll be on a panel on May 12 called “All Kinds of Coaching & What Makes This Career So Fulfilling.” Register for the Summit, which takes place May 11-13. 

SHEQONOMI: SHEQONOMI is a podcast platform built by millennial women to serve 2 billion women globally, where content creation and listening are rewarded. 

Wild Yoga Tribe: If you’re interested in yoga and meditation with Lily, check out Wild Yoga Tribe and learn about her online classes.

 

Growing through discomfort and ambiguity

 

New is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. 

When you take on an opportunity at a new organization, it’s jarring. You go from expert to unknown. From trusted resource to uncertain authority. 

Just as much as they don’t know or trust you yet, you might not trust yourself. Imposter syndrome sometimes rears its head and your friends remind you, “They hired you for a reason. You’ve got this.”

lightbulb with plant growing within it

I first experienced these feelings when I left Central Michigan University after nearly five years as the associate director of communications and social media. At CMU, I’d led our social media strategies and was the voice of the university online. I’d counseled vice presidents, deans and directors, and I had a seat at the table during critical conversations and crises. As a known, trusted communicator and adviser, I had established relationships across campus. 

In my first few months as director of communications at Davenport University, I experienced the absence of the credibility I’d had at CMU. Not a single person on campus knew me or what I brought to the table. I had to build relationships and confidence in my expertise from scratch while learning to navigate the new realm of private higher ed after years at a public institution. 

You can feel this shift when you take on new projects or work in other industries as well — like when I was asked to lead efforts for a client within the clean energy policy sector. I knew absolutely nothing about clean energy or policy, and had to stretch my skills in a new direction.  

Sahil Bloom explained it well in a recent post, On Competitive Advantage

“Discomfort leads to growth. It is an absolute necessity. If you train yourself to accept and embrace discomfort, you will always have an edge.”

Accepting uncertainty and risk certainly gives you a competitive advantage for your future career growth. My advice for these moments:

1. Listen and observe. You may see 15 things the organization could or needs to change, but first you need to hear what those on the front lines have to say about what they’ve seen and experienced over the years. Take your time and build trust by involving others in your team in the process of identifying, planning and implementing changes. Collect and sort through the ideas, wants, needs and the “this is the way we’ve always done it” comments as you formulate a holistic plan. 

2. Identify your gaps and fill them. You were hired for your strengths, and sometimes it feels like a new job or project shines a light on your weaknesses. There are new terms you don’t know and things you’ve never done. There are new processes and expectations. Note the gaps in your experience and the areas you feel deficient and fill them by asking questions, listening to podcasts, reading and even enrolling in online courses. 

3. Embrace the ambiguity. There’s no syllabus to tell you what’s next. Siri won’t tell you when to merge into a new lane or change directions. Sure, that can be scary. It’s also exciting because it means you have the power to map this journey yourself. 

4. Acknowledge your fears, and don’t let them stop you. Whenever I make a change, I think of all the catastrophic ways that things could go wrong. I could fail. I could fall flat on my face. I could lose everything I’ve worked for. It’s fair to acknowledge the worst that could happen, especially if it helps you make contingency plans. Just don’t let it stop you from growing. Move forward despite your fears while considering and planning for the “worst” case scenarios if that makes you feel more confident.   

It’s in the moments of fear, discomfort and ambiguity you grow the most. Don’t these feelings get in the way of your career momentum.