In Your Career, Win With the Cards You’re Dealt

It’s easy to judge a book by its’ cover, to look at a person’s LinkedIn profile and think they must have had a fast start or they’re just “really smart”. Let me stop you right there! My career journey started at 15 at a McDonalds where I lasted two weeks and then after realizing I’m built for an office setting, I worked at several call centers as a telemarketer. I graduated college UNEMPLOYED and scratched and clawed for three years across small jobs before I got my first chance at JP Morgan in a Middle Office role after being told on several occasions that I “can’t” or “not with your background” or “maybe you need to rethink your goals.” Over the next couple years, I worked my way up to the front office in unlikely fashion again after hearing “it’s an impossible jump” or “very few people make it” or “you may need to go somewhere else if you want to do that.” I learned that the career progression muscle needs to be worked out regardless of whether you are on the market or not. Along the way I picked up on ways to debunk the myth surrounding both cross-functional and industry barriers. I applied the lessons learned and over the course of the next 5 years, I became a published author and public speaker while also breaking down the industry barrier and transitioning to a role in technology at Salesforce.

My career highlight came 8 months after I joined Salesforce and the organization was running a marketing campaign around Marc Benioff’s book Trailblazer. I was minding my business at the office when I got a tap on the shoulder from a marketing executive who said they decided they wanted to dish out 100 copies of Break Barriers alongside TrailBlazer. I was absolutely floored, did they know that just 8 years prior, I was told “I can’t” and that maybe “I need to rethink my goals.”

I’ve found alignment across all facets of my life, driving success in a uniform fashion by sticking to my 3 key tenors – Patience, Perspective, and Purpose. All three of which were instilled in me as a young child battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I made it a point in my adult life to channel those lessons in my career.

Patience

As a child seeing one doctor after the other and receiving negative results I was able to draw parallels several years later going from one interview to the next navigating a rejection. Your time is coming and every interview is a learning moment, every rejection will shape you and potentially navigate you to the place you were meant to be.

Perspective

As a child wondering why I wasn’t allowed to live as freely as some of my peers due to my condition, I was able to connect the dots several years later that maybe a few years of being in what I perceived to be the “wrong place” was actually an opportunity to build up strength that would perhaps be my differentiating skillset. Accept that regardless of how the cards are dealt, someone will figure out a way to win – that someone can and SHOULD be you. 

Purpose

Embracing the discomfort became innate after several rounds of treatment. If you embrace the pain, it will strengthen you and the greater the pain physically, mentally, and emotionally, the more you will uncover your own potential. Speak up in that meeting, take the interview for the job that you feel unqualified for, do not be afraid of being your whole self on your professional journey. 

When I reflect on my career in this fashion, it becomes evident that setbacks don’t define the person but rather dare them to be stronger and more driven. At times, you may feel the odds are against you, but you must acknowledge that barriers are meant to be broken.