Effective Solutions Through Partnership

3 Tips for a Successful (and Fun!) Career

Communications, General Life/Work, Hiring, Human Resources

By Sarah Walsh

I’ve only been out of college for 12 years, but I feel like a cat with nine lives with the amount of jobs I’ve held across various sectors and industries. I’ve worked for a major political party, two elected officials, a Native American tribe (where our lunch meetings took place at a casino), the pharmaceutical industry, and, finally, consulting.

What I’ve found along the way is that where you start is not necessarily where you’ll finish. What you think you like and what you actually do like may change over time. Your life, ideas, politics, values, and dreams will change over time. Despite—or because of!—the various roads you take, you will have many opportunities to reinvent yourself.

Today I share three things you can do to ensure continued career progression while allowing for life’s many changes. While these tips are targeted towards those starting out their career, they can also be applied to the more seasoned professionals who perhaps feel stuck in their current state.

  1. Intern!

Not sure what you want to do with your life? Intern.

Know exactly what you want to do with your life? Intern.

The benefits of an internship cannot be overstated. You not only learn more about the field in which you’re interning—which can help you decide whether or not it’s what you actually want to do—you also meet valuable people, whether a mentor, a future job reference, an industry connection, or a friend.

When I graduated college, my major (Political Science) required either a 12-page paper or a three-month-long internship to graduate. As much as I love writing now, writing a required 12 pages wasn’t a passion at age 22, and so I chose the internship route.

This move ultimately put me on a path towards doing what I truly love (writing and editing, creating communications plans and procedures, and hanging out on the Internet)—although of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I’d work in politics forever, and while that goal shifted (I happily no longer work in politics), I still have the skills and inside knowledge my years in politics provided…All because I choose to take an internship.

  1. Build and Foster Relationships

It was only through the relationships and connections I built along the way that enabled me to continue to progress in the political field. Hilariously, in my early years, I ended up following my first internship supervisor in several roles as she vacated them—was it any coincidence that each time she took a new position, she thought of me to replace her?

Mentorships are just as important and being mentored is not something that should only happen at the beginning of your career. As your roles change or you take a job in a different industry, you may find that being mentored is critical to your success. Shelve the idea that age matters and remember learning is continuous, even if that means learning from someone who is younger than you—insight is ageless!

Building relationships/mentorships can be tricky. You need to make sure the relationship is symbiotic, not just something you dip back into when it benefits you. A piece of required reading on this topic comes from a friend of mine, a successful writer. People with whom she had little to no relationship were forever asking to, “Pick her brain.” Eventually, she’d had enough and shared her thoughts on the brain-picking epidemic. Underscoring her blog post is the reminder that professional relationships don’t happen in a vacuum—they are something to be nurtured over time.

  1. Embrace the Change

Some of my career changes were by choice and some were not (dreaded political term limits!) Each change while, on the one hand scary, was also an opportunity to take what I’d learned and shift that knowledge into a new role.

My years of writing political briefings may not have been an obvious transition into more typical communications functions like internal comms, social media management, marketing/PR, etc., but what was obvious was that the raw skills transferred across industries.

While initially there was fear around the unknown—in my case, abandoning one industry for another in which I had little to no knowledge or professional contacts—it was a challenge that ultimately got me here, to a job I enjoy and value. The first step was taking the leap and embracing the initial change—and the discomfort that went along with it.

Another example of embracing change is our own Human Resources Generalist, who recently made a career change, going from Research Analyst to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

Through her years of research work, she eventually found a new passion in HR—and didn’t even have to give up her beloved research in the process. As she said about the transition, “I still get to do research as part of my work. … While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.”

Remember, change is not only ok, it is necessary to keep growing in your career and life! We hope these tips will help in your professional development—whether a reminder to pick up the phone and call text your old boss to catch up, or by deciding to finally pursue a long-held dream.

About the Author: Sarah Walsh has over a decade of communications experience, including public sector roles in the California State Senate and State Assembly, as well as private sector roles for a sovereign Native American tribe and a global pharmaceutical company. In addition to communications work, Sarah and her husband are team captains and fundraisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Walk MS event. When she’s not writing, editing, or watching The Real Housewives, she loves performing comedy, hanging out with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, and cooking. One day, maybe she’ll figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Until then, follow her on Twitter @sarahsykeswalsh.

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