I had someone ask me today how I advanced in my career so quickly.

I’d like to share those answers with you, but first, some points up front:

  • “advancing" is not the most important standard of your career: it’s more important to look at the impacts (both good and bad) that are the results of our work
  • maybe we should say “vocation” instead of “career” because you might choose to do non-traditional work or do important-but-unpaid services (maybe that’s another topic!)
  • I was pretty lucky to grow up in a situation where I didn’t have major health or safety troubles, never lacked access to educational resources, and wasn’t treated like an outsider: we call this “privilege” and it means it was easier for me to get going in my career (and other things were easier as well!)

With that said, here’s an edit of what I shared with that person, today:

  • There are many specialists who are very good at one thing, and many generalists who are ok at a lot of things, but one of the best ways to make a big and unique impact is to combine two different types of things that you are good at. This is where most inventions, breakthroughs, and changes come. It’s also where what’s special about you will shine.
  • In order to learn about what those special things could be for you: stay curious. Learn a little bit about a variety of things, explore the world in the ways that you can, experiment & practice in areas where you are excited to try more, and listen (better: ask!) for specifics when people compliment you.
  • When things get hard: welcome the challenge. Unless it’s actively harmful for you or others, challenges are where you will grow the fastest: in understanding, in confidence, and in skill. It’s how to build up experience more quickly. But you only grow if you dive into the challenge instead of avoiding it!

Hopefully one or more of these tips will be helpful for you.