As part of an ongoing series, NPR has been asking working women to offer advice to their “younger selves.” It’s great to look back and really think about what kinds of things I could have done differently or realized earlier.
If I could go back to when I was just starting out in my career and give myself some advice, here’s what I would say:
Make time to invest in friendships. Yes, you’ve got a lot going on. You’re newly married, you just started your first job and you’re working hard to succeed at it. And yes, it might be hard to connect with other women at church, because they don’t always “get you.” Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Keep looking until you find someone who understands the God-centered professional wife and mother that you are. Find a few women who you can share the chapters of your life with. Then you will have the deepest friendships that you have ever had in your life. You’re going to need those friends, more than you know.
Stay centered in your faith. Faith isn’t something you do in your free time. Let it permeate your life. Make this priority number one. Because no matter what you accomplish at work, no matter how handsome your husband is or how smart your kids are, we live in a broken world. Troubles will come. You’ll experience betrayal and disappointment, embarrassment and failure. Your kids will test you to the core. But faith will sustain you and guide you. Build your life on a firm foundation of faith, and you will not fall (Matthew 7:24-27).
Don’t rush yourself. I know there’s a lot you want to accomplish, but you don’t have to do everything right now. Take your time to get there. Remember that life is long, and there is a time and season for all things (Ecclesiastes 3:1). You need to put up healthy boundaries and learn to say no. You have to give yourself the time and space to go about your day in peace, even if that means missing out on some exciting events, good opportunities, or even worthwhile service projects.
Help others along the way. God has called you to work, and he gave you the skills and the drive you need to succeed. But He called you there and gifted you in those ways in order to do His work. Don’t worry: you don’t have to shout the gospel from your cubical. Simply let your faith be known in a non-aggressive way, and then live it out fully. Take special care in how you treat other people. Take the time to notice the needs of those around you, and to help where you can. As you get older, you’ll look back and have a number of accomplishments to be proud of. But what you’ll value most about your career isn’t accomplishments or titles or raises. It’s the people you’ll work with and mentor and serve whom you’ll remember most.
For more encouragement and practical advice check out Practical Steps to a Stronger Faith
Diane Paddison has held several executive positions for corporations, including Chief Operating Officer for two Fortune 500 companies, Trammell Crow (now CB Richard Ellis) and ProLogis. She is currently the Chief Strategy Officer at the commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley, and the founder of 4WordWomen, a national nonprofit designed to connect, lead and support young professional Christian women to fulfill their God-given potential.
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