Crafting Your Career Path | Twin Cities Business

It’s that time of year. College students returning from school – brimming with possibilities, excited about summer and simmering on the abstract idea that they will eventually need to get a job. In my work as a strategist, executive advisor, and founder, I am often asked how I moved to Minnesota, landed at General Mills and how I ended up in consulting. I get asked this question not only by students, but many times anyone contemplating a transition. I tell them that while there wasn’t necessarily a ‘grand plan,’ I did receive some thoughtful advice that I am grateful I acted on. In the spirit of Maycember, I thought I would share it with you.

Make goals for your 20s (and 30s and 40s…).

This can be anything. Truly. Whatever it is – write them down and then brainstorm how you can get there. Then reach out to people you admire (LinkedIn, parents, alumni are great for this) who attained those goals (or something close to it) and ask them how they did it. I had three goals for my 20s – leave New Jersey (the jokes write themselves), go back to school, and live internationally. When I found myself interviewing at General Mills I learned that they would 1) move me to Minnesota, 2) encourage me to apply to business school and 3) offer the potential to work internationally, so I said, “well, I have to apply for this.” Did I know anything about marketing? Nope. Had I thought about Minnesota before this? Nope. Twenty years later, it is one of the best decisions I ever made. When your goals guide you, it opens you up to so many more possibilities.

Think less about the job title.

It’s more about what you can learn and what you enjoy within your work. I realized early on that big company CEO was not my ultimate goal. My desires for my 20s (and even my 30s) did not including becoming a CEO or a founder, but instead it was more of a formula. Learn as much as possible and figure out what I really enjoyed doing and find my superpowers. With this shift, I started to look at my roles as opportunities to grow, refine, and build myself. Ultimately when I did leave General Mills, I had the inklings not only of what I enjoyed, but the skillsets I had accumulated and what I was really good at. Which brings me to…

Cultivate and embrace your superpowers.

I spent A LOT of time in my life focusing on my opportunity areas. The places I needed to work on. In the early days of my career, that was really helpful as it made me better. And I am always refinining and getting better. But after several years into my career journey, I realized that I would get a higher return if I maximized my strengths vs. focusing so much on my weaknesses. When I accepted that I didn’t have to be amazing at everything it unlocked for me that I would seek out people that complemented me and brought out my best. That was how I discovered and embraced my work as a strategic complement to a CEO. There is nothing I love more than maximizing the nugget of an idea. That’s what I did to the best of my ability at Grow North/Naturally Minnesota, and what I do now with the companies I work with. The world, including this magazine, celebrates founders and rightly so – but there is an entire universe of Jedis who have incredible skillsets and superpowers to enable that growth. Don’t focus on wishing you had someone’s else superpowers. Nurture and celebrate yours.

Your life and your work are interwoven.

This is when I go full on adult with folks. Do you have a budget? Will you have debt after school? What is the salary you are hoping for? Let’s talk benefits! Do you envision having a partner? Kids? As a parent of two kids in a dual-working household, all of this stuff was theoretical until it wasn’t. I was grateful my parents had introduced me to these ideas and I have a partner who wanted to go there (it helps he is a finance guy as they love to plan). There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but, in my experience, it’s all too interconnected not to think about together.

So that’s it! While it’s easy to write, it was much harder to live. My journey, just like theirs and yours continue to unfold. What advice would you share?