What do you know now that you wish you knew during your first job? Perfect question to ask during a network conversation—and we got the ball rolling by asking six successful women what they would tell their younger selves right now. Soak it up!
During my senior year of college, when all of my friends and I started applying for jobs, I kept comparing my potential new position and salary to that of my friends. I did end up with a great first job out of college, but if I could give someone advice about finding her first job, it’s that everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s career will run at a different pace than yours and that’s okay! It’s called a career path because it’s the path made for you, not for everyone else.
—Arielle Sobel, senior PR associate, Betterment
For my first job I was working at a science laboratory as the the only web developer within a team of physicists. By being the only person on my team in my particular role [web development], I didn’t have anyone that could offer the kind of mentorship or guidance I needed. When I left to start my first company, Packlane, it definitely made me regret not having anyone in my Rolodex from my previous job that I could turn to for relevant advice or introductions. It’s really important to focus on the people you’ll be working with, and what kind of network you’ll be building when you start the job.
—Miriam Brafman, founder of Packlane
[Related: 10 Small Things You Shouldn’t Sweat At Work]
When I jumped feet first into my first “real job” as a marketing assistant for a scientific equipment company, I’d just graduated with a degree in medical science, and had spent most of my time in science labs up to that point. I didn’t have a clue what marketing was and no one in the office had experience in marketing to guide me. One of the first things I did was enroll in night school to find out exactly what marketing was all about. And there I kicked off my career—so be flexible, open to opportunities, and never stop learning.
—Amy Schofield, chief marketing officer at POLISH Artisan Nails
Your skill set is just as important as who you know. I can’t stress it enough when talking to friends, colleagues, my younger siblings, and cousins. I made a conscious decision a couple years ago to expand my personal network so that I could take my career to the next level, as I was transitioning from working as a chef into work in the food-tech space. As you build your network, make genuine connections that work as a two-way street, like any good relationship. If you are asking for advice and introductions, you should be giving advice and introductions. I read Porter Gale’s Your Network Is Your Net Worth, which is a total affirmation of what I find to be a truth in the workplace.
—Jessica Young, business development and operations manager at Daily Harvest
You’re in a learning phase at the beginning of your career, so it’s a great time to ask all the questions you want. Early in my career, I’d receive an assignment and go to work without asking for many details—because I thought I was supposed to know everything already, and I thought asking would make me seem incompetent. I just worked in my own little vacuum and hoped I was doing it right, which increased my anxiety. The more experience I gained, the less afraid I was to just ask. I ask tons of questions now, and by engaging the team for help, we’ve stumbled onto some of our best insights.
—Catherine Cronenberg, brand and communications manager, Roomi
I used to apologize for taking up space, and now I realize I didn’t need to do that. You deserve to take up space and have opinions. You don’t need to say you are “just an intern,” or “new here” before sharing your professional analysis or opinion. You were hired because your boss knew you could do the job. Others will know to respect your thoughts when you demonstrate that you respect them yourself.
—Erin Matson, political writer and cofounder of the nonprofit organization Reproaction
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.