You Are the CEO of Your Own Career and Other Advice You Need in Your 20s

by Melissa Kirsch
Originally Published: 

For The Girl’s Guide to Absolutely Everything (Workman, new edition 2015), I asked hundreds of women what they know now that they wish they’d known when they’d graduated from college that would have spared them heartache, eased their transitions and made their life a heck of a lot easier in their 20s and 30s. Here’s one of their responses.


Beth Brown



What do you do?

I’m a senior producer at a digital advertising agency.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier?

* Balance is essential. You can excel in your job and prove dedication without making work the place where you spend all of your time. You will actually be able to contribute more by having a rich life outside of the office – you can learn and explore, then bring those findings back with you to share with colleagues.

* You don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Be willing to take a leap so you can start to learn and discover what interests you most. This leap can be in the form of taking a new job, quitting your job to travel, taking on a side project that fulfills a (non-lucrative) passion, and so many other things. Where you end up will likely not be where you start and that’s pretty great.

I have always followed “a straight path” from elementary school through to my job today. I liked that because it felt secure. But I put pressure on myself to figure it all out right away–don’t do that!

* It’s OK to be selfish (within reason). Being gracious and supportive of others is incredibly important, but you need to carve out time and space for yourself—whether that means finding a passion, living alone, or saying “no” every once in a while. You will be a better friend, partner, and co-worker if you know who you are and have strong opinions to contribute. I’m still working on this one…every day.

* If you need help, ask for it. You shouldn’t be dependent on others and you should try your best to problem-solve before giving in, but asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

* You’re the CEO of your own career. Others may look out for you or be your advocate, but at the end of the day, you need to rely on yourself. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t trust people, but it does mean that you should be able to trust yourself the most.

Photo: Getty

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