I had just been hired as a Series 7 Licensed Sales Assistant to a significant “market maker” at a major stock brokerage. I was 23 years old, married and had dropped out of college the year before. I thought this new position could be my stepping stone to a professional career as a stockbroker.
Six months into my employment, the office manager called a staff meeting and announced that our receptionist had resigned and she was considering asking each of us to take shifts at the front desk. She paused and added, “Does anyone have thoughts on the subject?” At first, I was afraid to speak up. But then I realized that if I didn’t speak up, who would? I shared that I had worked hard to move beyond the role of receptionist and my skills were better used in the job for which I was hired. Even though none of the other assistants chimed in, I felt satisfied that I had stood up for myself. At the very least, I thought the office manager might consider my comments and exempt me from duty.
The next day she handed me my shift schedule. She had completely disregarded my opinion.
Back on the job market, I considered my position. I didn’t have a college degree and I had chosen to resign from a well-respected company — two immediate resume killers. Determined to move forward with a positive attitude, I set a goal of finding a professional position. I wanted to continue exposing myself to new things and decided I wouldn’t settle for a less-than-challenging role.
My job search led me to a small company that taught me the art of public finance. My new position wasn’t glamorous, but I stayed true to my commitment to having a professional role, not a supporting one. At the same time, I learned the ins and outs of public finance (I used to joke that God told my boss what “the interest rate was.”) I also learned to be self-sufficient in business. I spent three years getting a fantastic education with this company, which led to my being hired by a national bank, which was the launching pad to founding my own company.
It still crosses my mind, what if I had stayed quiet, taken my assigned shift as receptionist and done my tasks as asked? Such a small moment, a seemingly insignificant decision, that likely set me on the path to where I am today. My company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It was my not settling for “good enough” that gave me the drive and the opportunity to become a majority shareholder of my own business. My company competes with every large financial institution in the United States, and good enough still doesn’t cut it.
I truly believe that we often lean back from new opportunities because we feel we are supposed to have mastered a role before we even begin. As I learned early on, you don’t have to know exactly how to do a job before accepting it. You just have to be willing to work hard to learn how to master the task at hand. Lean in and trust that you will figure it out.