What I wish I knew, when I was 22..

Taken from my Linkedin blog.

In this series, professionals share what they’d do differently — and keep the same. Follow the stories here and write your own (please use #IfIWere22 in your post).

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6 Years ago, I was 22.

A lot can change in 6 years. I’ve followed the posts in this series and I’ve been really inspired by the stories and insights of my idols, mentors and peers.

When I was 22, I took a huge leap (quite literally), upped sticks and moved 600 odd miles to Aberdeen, Scotland. Some thought it was a risky move, and for the first few months, it felt like the worst decision I had ever made. I had no job, and knew virtually no one. I was impatient, driven, and hungry for success, with no idea how to achieve it. But, looking back at the last 6 years and where that move has taken me, it was undoubtedly the best career move I have made.

With that in mind, this is what I wish I had known when I was just starting out.

Its OK to not know what you want to do!

When I was 15, I wanted to be a vet.

When I was 17, I wanted to be a marine biologist.

When I was 18, I wanted to be an air hostess.

When I was 20, I wanted to be the next Richard Branson, and operate my own airline and travel agency.

By the time I was 22, I was working as a consultant in a retail store, and if you asked me what I thought I would be doing in 6 years time, I don’t think I would have said working as a recruitment account manager in defence and construction.

My time working in travel was a dream come true, and I seized every opportunity I could. I soon realised that I craved more, but I had no idea how or what it was I wanted, and that is completely ok. Being spontaneous, trying something new, and taking unexpected opportunities is what being in your early 20’s is all about.

You are not a Tree.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest lessons I learned pretty quickly, is that you are not a tree. You are not fixed to one place in time, or one job, or one city. If you want to move, you can. If you want to travel, you can.

Millennial types (like me) are less likely to stay in the jobs we take on in our 20’s for longer than 3 years according to numerous reports published. And quite right too!  We crave new challenges, objectives and environments that push our boundaries, both professionally and creatively, allowing us to take in as many “life skills” as we can before we settle in a career path we are comfortable with, with an employer that will value us and allow us to hone our craft, whatever that may be.

Experience doesn’t necessarily come from length of time, it can also come from variety. A previous employer of mine offered me a chance to move from a satellite office to work at their head office, 526 miles from where I lived in Scotland, to the South coast of England. The circumstances at the time meant that I could move, and I have never regretted the decision to try something new. If I hadn’t taken that opportunity (and driven 11 hours cross country), I wouldn’t be in the job I am today.

If an opportunity presents itself to you that will offer you the development you crave, your 20’s are the best time to do it. You might not get that kind of opportunity again, and your personal circumstances may not be as flexible, so grab it with both hands.

Mistakes happen. 

Everyone makes mistakes. its human nature. Anyone who tells you that they haven’t ever made a mistake, is probably lying, (maybe to cover up a mistake, who knows?) and its ok! no one is perfect. Its how you bounce back from those mistakes, learning from them and putting into practice a means to improve on them that matters. Maybe you forgot to follow up on an important email, maybe you forgot to put an appointment in your calendar. When it all comes out, we don’t want to own up to it, we are too ashamed to say ” I made a mistake. It was my fault” and will bury our heads in the sand, which makes us feel even worse. The doom loop if you will.

Man up.

Owning up to your mistakes, saying “I’m sorry” at the earliest opportunity and learning from them will help you sleep so much better at night, than worrying about everyone finding out about your mistake. It will suck, you may well get yelled at, you might even get fired, but your peers, co workers, and clients will have more respect for you if you let them know sooner rather than later. No one wants to be surprised for the wrong reasons.

If it scares you, its probably going to be a good idea. 

If there was one single piece of advice I could give to my 22 year old self, to any 22 year old, it would be this. If it scares the hell out of you, excites you, and challenges you, its probably going to be a great idea. Taking the safe choice every time may well keep you on a steady path, keep you ticking over, but where is the fun in that? If no one ever took a risk, think how boring life would be! Your 20’s are all about trying new things, messing them up, and trying again. Learning to take rejection and bouncing back is a skill in itself. So dare to do something different, you’re young enough to recover from it right now.

The entrepreneurial influencers of today wouldn’t be where they are if they had stuck to a safe bet. Sometimes, taking a risk can be your biggest success. Even if it doesn’t work, we should always be pushing ourselves and our limits. Don’t forget that this doesn’t have to just be limited to the office. Find something outside of the 9-5 that will push those buttons too. For me, that passion lies in long distance running, and I truly believe that having this as something to focus on and give me a real fire in my belly, helped me to push myself more in my career.

Ferris Bueller told us “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

You’re young. You’re healthy. The world is your oyster. Get out there and explore. Try things you never thought you would ever do. Go to places that scare you. Now is your time to find out who you really are, and who you really want to be.

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