I’ve always been taught that my career is my own. There are no hand-outs. You work hard, build a support system, and surround yourself with people who are like-minded, ambitious and driven. You learn from them and you take that knowledge to experience and learn yourself. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt – Failure is the path that leads you to success. My biggest fear was failure. Before I joined North Highland, being a new graduate, I was hungry to learn as much as I could about the working world. I set myself goals to achieve, but soon realised that something was missing. I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore and certainly was not achieving the ambitious goals I wanted to. Reflecting on it now, I realise I was protected by other colleagues and hadn’t felt failure yet. I had no accountability.
When I made the decision to move to North Highland, I was accountable for that decision. No one made me apply, no one made the decision for me to join – I made it. A decision that made me feel like a real adult owning her career. I was excited to be able to join a company where I could help shape a capability. Though the concept of Project and Programme Management (PPM) was not new to North Highland, they had recently started up a delivery capability for PPM. I took the plunge, left my old job, took a risk that I would be joining ‘the unknown’ and have never looked back since.
I wanted to learn as much and as fast I could. I wanted to make a difference, become extremely knowledgeable in the PPM market and eventually, start mentoring others. I wanted to become an empowered individual. I was feeling on top of the world (in my mind) and then I got hit right in the face within the first month of joining. Of course, I’m talking metaphorically. I remember the day so well – I was back from holiday and I got told that my client had let me go for underperforming. My first failure and it was devastating. I had a choice to make:
- Do I give up and decide this is not the right path for me, go back to something comfortable where I will forever be in the shadows of others? Or…
- Do I learn from this and use it as motivation and a story I can share with so many other people who have and who will go through the same thing?
Don’t get me wrong – I thought about number 1 for a millisecond, but I was accountable for this decision. I had decided to take the risk and move. I wanted to grow professionally and take my career into my own hands. So I chose option 2.
I spent 3 months on the bench – 3 months where I utilised the people around me, learnt about the ways at North Highland, drove the shaping of the PPM capability and gained my confidence back. I leant that my colleagues are there to help me and share both the highs and lows with me. I used my experience at my next engagement and I continue to learn, leveraging the knowledge and experience of my managers, team members and fellow North Highlanders.
A little over a year later, I won an award at my account meeting, I got promoted and I’m on my way to mentoring others in my capability. I have the best minds and support system around me, the passion of the capability is so electric that I can’t help but feed off of others and I learnt my biggest lesson. I know I can be successful, but to be successful is to accept failure and learn from it. I no longer have the fear of failure – just faith (or hope) that failure will provide me with the lessons that will lead me to success.
My key takeaways which are lifelong lessons to me:
- It’s good to take risks
- Taking accountability personally and professionally helps you to grow
- Failure is part of success. On reflection, albeit painful at the time, the experience makes me grateful that it happened
- It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t give up, believe in yourself, have supportive people around you and are part of a forward thinking culture like North Highland.