My Lean In moment came when I was in my early 30s. A little background: I dawdled somewhat in school – took some interesting classes, did some traveling and studying abroad – but never really felt like I had focused or had mastered anything scholastically. I graduated with a vague notion of a career path and networked my way into a great internship right out of school in the glamorous world of consumer marketing and advertising. My role was at one of those companies where everyone wanted a job. I was the only female creative on a team of 15 or so. I was completely intimidated, felt out of my league and rarely opened my mouth. Leaning back was very easy.
I quickly made the transition to a smaller, independently-owned company. For the next ten years of my career, I was stuck in a comfortable, yet insecure mindset—never quite sure of my value to the company, or my worth as a professional. There was little to no advancement available to me, so my career started to stagnate.
Out of the blue, a friend forwarded a job posting. It was a departure from what I’d previously done, but something that I knew I could handle. It felt like my next career move, so I went after it with everything I had, making relentless follow-up calls and networking with possible connections; I even contacted a professional recruiter in the hopes of landing an interview. It took several unsure, nagging-doubt-filled months, but it paid off: I got the job.
The transition was terrifying. Not only was I dealing with the guilt of leaving my last employer, but my entry into the new job was one of those “baptism by fire” moments. For the first couple months, I’d leave the office at night with my head down, feeling defeated. Weekends were spent dreading Monday mornings. Everything was new, and I’d convinced myself that if I didn't have the answer to something right away, I was a failure. It was overwhelming. But over time, that soon gave way to the excitement of not knowing how to solve a problem and then finding a solution. I realized, quite suddenly, I wasn’t supposed to know everything. I started looking forward to the obstacles. I began taking charge of my days and was doing my job well.
For the first time, I felt like I had truly leaned in to my career. I went after an opportunity, challenged myself, and earned my place at the table. And because I was genuinely energized and excited about what I was doing, the recognition, awards and opportunity for advancement soon followed. Looking back, I've never regretted taking that chance, and stepping into the unknown; I just wish I’d tried it sooner.