5 lessons I wish I’d known early in my career
- Posted on February 12, 2020
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
This article is excerpted from Thrive Global, which interviewed Stella Goulet, Avanade’s chief marketing officer, as part of its series about powerful women. The excerpt below focuses on some of her lessons learned.
Thrive Global: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
How important it is to be in a company with positive leadership. Working with positive leadership that supports you makes a huge difference in your success at any stage of your career. It has allowed me to be bolder than I otherwise would have been. For example, we recently did a brand refresh at Avanade. My colleagues and I discussed whether we should do a full refresh of our brand and identity or just tweak it a bit. While it was riskier, we decided to take the bolder option of a complete refresh, which has been the right choice for us.
Ask for what you want. I was too patient at times in my career. If I had asked for what I wanted, I would have progressed quicker. But also know when to say no. There have been instances where people have wanted to give me more responsibilities. Had I said yes, it might have progressed things faster. But I didn’t feel I had the bandwidth to do both jobs well. Saying no to those additional responsibilities was absolutely right for my career, but it definitely felt like a risky move at the time!
About the experiences of women in business and women leaders. I didn’t understand that some of my experiences as a woman in business weren’t unique to me. It would have been helpful to understand that earlier. But on the flip side of that, would it have made me more timid to know that this experience was commonplace? I also wish I’d had a set of tools and ideas to help me deal with those problems faster instead of devising my own solutions one at a time.
You don’t have to be good at everything; you don’t have to have all the answers. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” and to ask for help. It can be hard to do this, especially if you want to seem confident and credible. It’s hard to say, “I don’t know but let me find out and come back to you,” but when people hear an executive do that, it’s good for the team as well. It reminds us that everyone is human and nobody has all the answers.
You’re only as good as your team; make sure to address difficult HR challenges quickly. If you don’t deal with difficult personnel challenges, they get worse over time, not better. They can impact your team and damage your credibility. A good team reflects well on you, but issues can also reflect on you negatively. Success today is about the people I work with more than it’s about me and what I do. So make sure that your team is a good one and be sure to catch potential problems early, before they have a chance to fester and become bigger issues.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There isn’t one quote that I live by, but I saw one recently that really resonated with me. It’s from Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
We all need to be willing to try new things without worrying about failing. That becomes harder to do as you move higher in your career. You may already be successful, so you don’t want to jeopardize that success. And with greater responsibility and impact, a failure can have wider-reaching repercussions. But at the same time, the more successful you are in your career, the more credibility you’re likely to have, so failure may not be as damaging as you think.
For people just starting out in their career, failing can feel devastating. Avoiding failure can make people less inclined to take risks. But that’s how we learn. I think we have a tendency to dwell on our failures, particularly in our own heads. Instead, I encourage my teams to be open and share what didn’t work well, as well as what they’re proud of. Think about what worked and what didn’t, learn a lesson from that and move on to the next thing.