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Dear future colleague,
I’ll be honest: I have no wisdom to bestow. I only have observations I gathered from my journey. Hopefully what I’ve learned along the way will help you on your personal path.
“How did you get to this position in your career?” is a question designers often ask me. I am always puzzled by it because I did not wake up one day and suddenly have this amazing career. When they see the look of confusion on my face, they rephrase it:
“I mean, how did you get this cool job?”. If I could only say one thing after talking to people about their careers and choices, it would be this: There is no final destination. So sit back and enjoy the ride.
I did not magically get to where I am. I hustled and worked hard. I left plenty of jobs and was hired for many others. At some point, I realized that I needed to start enjoying both the good and the bad experiences that came along – the whole ride. You could call this my “Aha!” moment: Instead of my career being about titles and salary, it transformed into a set of pursuits that aligned with my personal values. I always had a strong need to learn, be curious, work as part of an amazing team, and be able to have some sense of autonomy. These became the things that I wanted to build my career on, too.
That does not always mean learning cannot be painful. Feedback can be tough to receive; yet some of the most valuable lessons come from rejection. For example, if I had not gotten fired from one job, I would not have learned to adjust my attitude. I now know that my bluntness can come across as harsh and unsympathetic, and as a result, I worked on actively listening to what people have to say. Don’t get me wrong; I can still be quite blunt, but I have learned to catch myself and filter it better.
I like to imagine that the decisions I’ve made in my life and career are pieces of a puzzle that come together to create a whole. When I was just focused on the final destination, I forgot to experience the things that have helped me grow – like learning from others, taking the time to think and be creative, assessing my failures, and readjusting my priorities. In the past, I only felt a sense of achievement when I earned this amount or I got that title. It never occurred to me that I was missing out on a bunch of good lessons, experiences and growing; instead, I was stuck in a vicious cycle that was making me unhappy.
Understanding the importance of enjoying the ride was not a sudden realization. It took several years of struggling to find what made me happy. I came to see that there was no perfect job because I was continuing to chase the next best thing or what I perceived to be the next best thing. Now, with every aspect of my life, I try to step back and assess my choices. Some days I have to admit to failure, but I never beat myself up over it. I use it as a learning experience and appreciate the choices that have led me to where I am now.
I look back from the time I graduated university to today, and I am somewhat amazed at my journey. All of the mistakes, failures, and triumphs have been meaningful even if I didn’t realize it at the time. So what does the future hold for me? Who knows – but I’m enjoying the ride. And that’s something I wish someone would have told me when I was hustling in my younger days.
Just enjoy the ride. It will eventually take you where you need to go.
If you would like to learn more about where my journey has taken me or share your own experiences, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’m more than happy to chat. And if you want to learn more about Reaktor, check out our other blog posts and our careers section.
– Khanh Lam