Monday, August 31, 2009

What advice -- career or otherwise -- would you give your 25-year-old self?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, mostly about my career. I started working as a journalist when I was 16 -- I mean working for pay, as opposed to on the school paper or something -- and I pursued my career goals with a single-mindedness that surprises me today, in retrospect.

I didn't really have a mentor, 15 or 20 years ago. I could have used one -- as a young woman, as a woman of color, as a journalist, as a professional. I could have used a primer on office politics (who couldn't?), some guidance on setting goals, a reminder that work-life balance is important even when the only think on the "life" side of the equation is yourself.

At Yahoo!'s Shine, I'm talking with readers on the fantastic Manage Your Life channel about hindsight, and what advice I'd give my younger self. Here are a few things I wish I could go back in time and tell a 25-year-old Lylah:

Travel more. Not just on vacation -- though I would definitely advise my 25-year-old self to do that, too, before she saddled herself with a mortgage. Travel for conferences, volunteer for off-site assignments, just get out of the building and see what else is out there. I haven't spent my entire life in one state, or even one country. But I definitely wish I had seen more of the world instead of spending so much time in the office.

Network more. Hanging out with the music critics was fun, but attending meetings for various journalistic associations would have been fun -- and smart, too.

Don't work during your downtime. I rarely took all of the vacation time to which I was entitled. I should have. The office runs just fine when I'm not there.

Set new goals constantly. They don't have to be work-related, either.

Don't be so afraid of failure. Sure, there's a price to pay for not doing things perfectly right off the bat. But it can be one of the best way to learn something, to push your boundaries, to set new goals.

Wear the bikini. Believe me, you look fantastic. Don't be so self-conscious about it.

Dump that guy. I know you love him, but he's like a broken vase: gorgeous to look at, and utterly non-functional. Also: He's going to break up with you anyway in a few more months.

You are worth it. It's OK to splurge on yourself every once in a while. Go spend the money on a pedicure. It won't matter in the long run, and 10 years from now, you'll want to but not have the time to.

The ideas are overflowing in the comments on my post at Shine, but I'd love to read your pearls of rear-view wisdom! What advice -- career or otherwise -- would you give to your younger self?

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