Here’s what I learned about not standing in your own career path’s way

For my first job out of college, I worked for a United Nations’ agency. Sure that sounds fancy, but mostly I provided administrative support and did not travel. So when a new job opened in our division with ample travel opportunities…I did not apply.

You might think they hired a fancy PhD to join the team, but the job went to a young woman who on paper had a resume much like my own.

It was a stinging lesson on not counting myself out, and here’s what I learned:

When it comes to opportunity, never be the first to say ‘No’ to yourself


“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” As cliche as it sounds, it’s difficult to score a shot you never took (note: not controlling for systemic dis/advantages). I’ve found the most interesting things happen when I take risks. Without them, we can find ourselves stuck on the same loop just to avoid potential failure. But wouldn’t you like to see how far you can go and what unbelievable things you can do?

Kick that imposter syndrome to the curb!


While we’re on the subject of shots not taken, why exactly are you holding yourself back? Is it possible you believe, as I did, you need to check all the boxes to earn the right of consideration for a job, promotion, or raise? Your imposter syndrome says you don’t deserve that good thing, when truthfully you have the most important things anyone needs: passion, smarts, and ambition.

A list is a wishlist is a wishlist is a wishlist


Remember when you dreamed up your ideal partner – looks like, lives here, travels everywhere? That’s a lot like a job post: everything we’d want if we could have all the things. It’s actually common for companies to adjust their “ask” based on any number of factors. The final offer, then, will likely go to the person who doesn’t look like the wishlist, but still inspired confidence they can rock the job.

So does this mean you can be an aeronautical engineer without training? Not quite. But you should upgrade your idea of what’s possible.

The next time you see an opportunity that excites and frightens you, in a good way, embrace the risk of hearing “No” or nothing at all and take your best shot!