Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Friday, August 22, 2014
I do agree with the earlier responses provided by other Hiring Experts, and I can understand your frustration and also your tremendous desire to excel. It sounds like you are doing a lot of the right things to get noticed by employers (ongoing educational accomplishments, volunteering, involvement in Toastmasters, etc.), but you still feel a bit lost, and disconnected from a nourishing and truly challenging career.
To start, I’d highly encourage you to develop a network of mentors/advocates. Identify professionals within your circles who have made a strong impression on you (i.e. those who are passionate about their careers, and who also embody the types of successes you desire for yourself). Be humble in your interactions with these folks. Let them know how much you admire their talents and their achievements, and approach the relationship with gratitude and patience. Be aware that some professionals might take an interest in helping you with solid coaching and friendship, but that their availability may be limited, and you will have to adjust to their timelines. Try to be persistent, but take care to adapt to their schedules/priorities. Understandably, they may be very busy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t invested in you! Educate yourself on mentor/mentee conversation topics, practice active listening techniques, and ask your mentors for literature and event recommendations.
Mentors may come from a variety of sources. It sounds like you are well-situated within a number of different circles of professionals, but there may be other avenues you have not yet considered. Is there a Young Professionals Group in your area? An alumni organization? Are there leadership events or networking opportunities you have not yet explored? Can you join a Meetup group, or a regional chapter of an influential industry association? I would construct a very systematic methodology towards identifying new local leaders and potential mentors. Layer them into your life.
Also, understand that mentor/mentee relationships are not always meant to last forever. I had several outstanding mentors in college who gave me opportunities to do things I never would have imagined, but I also had to get creative in finding them, and had to learn when to let them go. Although they encouraged me greatly, upon graduation some were no longer as relevant to my situation. The same goes with each chapter of your working life. You may find mentors who assist you with specific career needs, and eventually fall away, and other mentors whose support endures throughout your evolution as a professional person.
And don’t forget to mentor others! Find ways to connect to other new grads or even high school students, and share what you’ve experienced.
Lastly, be patient with yourself, too. Three years may feel like a long time to be out of school, but your amazing career has only just begun. You have done quite a lot in this short period of time, and you will continue to do great things. The point is not to constantly look for that pinnacle job which will be 100% satisfying, but to take satisfaction in your day to day life, and recognize growth opportunities as they come up. Be proud and joyful about what you have done thus far, and feel secure in what you are capable of doing. My first job out of college lead to an incredible string of positions with my current company, but if you asked me that 8 years ago, I would never have known this could happen, not in a million years. Keep your eyes on the big picture, and don’t take any of your paid roles or unpaid activities for granted.
Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself, or rush things too much!
Otherwise you will miss out on the many moments in your career that are well-worth celebrating, and the opportunities you have to richly appreciate what you are learning along the way. Feel fulfilled throughout the process. There is no finish line when you will know you have “made it.” From what I can tell, you are already doing an outstanding job.