5 Lessons Learned After Working for 5 Years

First, I hope you all like the new and improved blog. It’s been a super fun quarantine project as I’ve worked to “rebrand” to something that will hopefully allow me to share beyond my twenties :). Again, I want to emphasize that my new title, Spill the Katie, is to allude to what I’ve always tried to be in all my posts: honest and real (through the lens of myself, of course 😉 ) while addressing all the messiness life brings. That being said, today I wanted to share the top five things I’ve learned since joining the workforce and how I came to learn these lessons.

I don’t talk too much about my professional life on here, and that’s semi-purposeful. I spend the majority of my time working and the last thing I really want to talk about when I’m not working is work. It’s not because I hate my job, I actually really enjoy my job, I just would rather talk about more fun things! But, I did hit my 5 year anniversary last week and while not long, it’s still a milestone. When I think back to when I started on my first day, there’s a lot of changes I’ve noticed within myself.

For those who don’t know me or what I do, I work in HR and have been with my company for my whole career. I started as a college recruiter and about a year and a half ago switched into talent management. Ultimately, I went from recruiting external talent to now working on strategies to prepare and retain internal talent! I did actually take a second on my 5 year anniversary and think back to my first day and year where I showed up 30 minutes early to orientation, was so nervous about making a mistake and even timed my bathroom break to make sure I made up that time. Oh, how far I’ve come. Fast forward and now I’m rolling in just before 9 a.m. on most days, I know that it’s ok to make a mistake as long as I own up to it and fix it, and some days barely have time to take a bathroom run. So, I thought it’d be appropriate to share what I’ve learned since joining the workforce.

Accepting Change
I don’t do well with change, most people I would say don’t. Less than six months into my job our company announced a reorganization. I remember being at our local pizza shop with my family for dinner when I saw the email and telling my dad, “I’m doomed.” I figured since I was at the “bottom of the totem pole” I would be the first to go. My dad’s response was, “No you’re not, this isn’t a bad thing and changes like this can always lead to opportunities.” As I’ve come to learn with a lot of things my parents say, he was right. The sector I was in was majorly impacted and I was able to see the impact of a large-scale change. Having a major reorganization so early in my career I think has been super helpful in adapting and accepting change quickly. You have to be able to do so when working for a big company because things are constantly changing. Ironically enough, at the beginning of this year we had another reorganization and granted my sector wasn’t necessarily impacted as much as the first reorganization I went through, I definitely didn’t have the same level of “freak out” as I did the first time around.

Competing Priorities
In college I would struggle trying to balance multiple class projects or splitting my time studying for multiple tests. I always focused on the thing that came first and by the time I got through that I was cramming or pulling all nighters for my other classes. Competing priorities is not something that goes away when you join the workforce. So, I quickly had to learn how to manage competing priorities. I would not say I’ve mastered this but mapping things out in my agenda and making to-do lists has helped. Accepting change also plays a key part here because a lot of times priorities will quickly shift and you have to be willing to shift with it.

Saying No is OK
I’m a “yes” girl. Not just at work but with everything. I blame it on my FOMO, control-freak tendencies and love for being with people. It’s not a bad thing to be a “yes” person but there does need to be boundaries. I was so afraid that if I said “no” to something my boss asked me to do it would then effect my performance rating and reputation with leadership. Well, what I eventually learned is that by saying yes to everything and overworking myself eventually lead to a breakdown/burn out and that is not a good look either. Instead of saying no outright, what I have learned is if I set expectations of what my current workload is, that helps show it’s not me being lazy but that if I had the bandwidth I could commit to it. I don’t like saying no to projects because in my mind it’s always a learning opportunity and could lead to a potential area of interest for future career growth so I am strategic in what I say yes or no to.

You are Responsible for Your Career
Building off of the last lesson, I think a lot of times young professionals expect this mapped out career path. At least that was my thought process going into the professional world. Wrong. Your managers, colleagues and mentors are there to help guide you to an extent, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you want your career to look like. You can’t sit around and wait for opportunities to come to you. Yes, that does happen on rare occassions, but wouldn’t you rather have a say than just get forced into something you may not like?? When I was ready to move out of college recruiting into my next role, I started having conversations with my manager and other leaders that I looked to as mentors to get their advice and it was through those conversations that this opportunity with talent management occurred. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do but there were some things I knew I enjoyed. One being strategy and the other being process or tactical type of work. Thankfully, prior to taking my current role I had an amazing manager who after learning I had interest in both strategy and process, helped me set up some stretch assignments to try both. Lucky for me, my role now incorporates both developing strategy but also getting into the detail as well. Regardless, have the conversations about your career and take control because you’ll be surprised what doors could open!

If You Have a Seat at the Table, Speak Up
I would describe myself as a title-ist amongst many other things. What I mean by that is I get intimidated very easily by someone’s title. If they are a manager or above, I would tell myself my opinion was not valuable compared to theirs. In my current role there are many times now where I am in meetings with all managers or even directors and VP’s and I’m the only individual contributor. I remember saying one time to my boss in a 1:1 that I had a suggestion on a topic we had a meeting on earlier where I was the only non-manager on the call but was too afraid to say it. After sharing my suggestion she was like “Why didn’t you speak up? This is a great idea.” When I told her about my FOT (fear of titles) she said, “You were asked to be a part of that meeting and had a seat at the table, your ideas and opinions matter and don’t be afraid to share them. Your seat at the table matters just as much as the others.” That has stuck with me and it’s something I remind myself any time I’m hesitant to say something.

As with a lot of what I share, I realize none of these concepts or pieces of advice are new or profound. But, maybe you needed that reminder that you are valued or it’s up to you to make the change you need to get where you want in your career? Regardless, I wanted to share my reflections and would love to here yours too!

Hopefully many of you are as excited as I am for this short work week! Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!


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