Dear Olivia (v. 2007),
You have just started your university degree, fresh-faced and eager to learn.
Sorry to say that you are not a marine biologist like you thought you would be. In fact, a career in corporate finance is almost the polar opposite of that. But the good news is that “Olivia v.2022” is very happy, both personally and professionally.
This letter isn’t going to be filled with wrong decisions or things you should have done differently. I’d happily follow the same path again. But perhaps the best thing I can do is list a few things that I wish I had known earlier, to help smooth out some of the bumps in the road.
- Develop your support network and surround yourself with cheerleaders. Know when to lean on them and ask for support. Cheerleaders won’t see this as weakness.
- Build your resilience and develop a thick skin early, you will need it. But more importantly, a sense of humour. Everything is easier when you focus on the lighter side.
- You may not have had many female leaders ahead of you to learn from, and you continue to work to change that, but you can find equal support and encouragement from the diversity of male leaders. It doesn’t necessarily have to be defined by gender, but more being able to take learnings from all different sources.
- You will be challenged in this profession, and you will often feel you need to work harder than others to prove yourself in a male-dominated industry. Continue to hold yourself to a high standard. You have a voice and people want to hear it. You don’t need to prove yourself as much as you think.
- You are really good at juggling. You might not know it yet, but your ability to multi-task and compartmentalise your brain to do 1,000 things at once is one of your best skills. You just need to learn early that some of the balls in the air are rubber – those ones bounce. The others are glass – those ones break. Don’t drop the glass balls.
- Build up the people around you. It’s an investment of time and energy in someone else’s development, but it provides you with the support you need to keep juggling those balls.
- Know your boundaries and own them. They may be different to other people’s and people may try to cross yours at times, but that doesn’t matter. You do you.
- It will never be 'the right time' to step outside your comfort zone. You will always be able to find an excuse as to why tomorrow, next month or next year makes more sense to take a leap. Try to listen to those excuses less frequently.
- Take time to celebrate the successes along the way, minor and major. Don’t be too humble.
- It is possible to be a mother and have a fulfilling career that challenges you every day. You will be exhausted at times, you will often be out of balance, but you can remain ambitious, and it will be rewarding and worth it in the end.
All the best for the fun that lies ahead.
Olivia (v. 2022)