When I was asked to write a blog post after I received the One to Watch Award, I struggled to find a topic that would be relevant to the profession. So instead, I am writing about my experience in the industry thus far.

As I reflected on what my experience has been, it seemed to consist of two things: my professional relationships and my passion for why I am in learning, development, and performance.

Each of my major professional relationships has taught me something about myself. When I was working for an international food service chain, I interacted with someone whom I butted heads with frequently. As frustrating as this relationship was, it taught me that my passion for what I believed in was more important to me than making other people happy. The interesting part about these combats was I knew exactly what I was doing.

The skill that I acquired during these years was assertiveness. I was told I was being “fresh” at the time; it’s safe to say that I was in a culture where I wasn't taken seriously because of my age or experience. It is important to assert yourself to express your feelings, but be sure to know what you are talking about and that your opinions are based in fact.

Most of us are seeking validation in our lives, which can cloud our ability to accept when we are wrong and why. When speaking to my colleagues, I will get to a point where I am seeking the “Yes, you’re right, Will” so I have the validation. Develop the ability to quiet your ego and have open dialogue. Welcome new thoughts and let go of the ones that have served their purpose. Just because you think you know doesn’t mean you do. Dare to ask the question you have in your mind rather than ignoring it. You might think that if you do ask, you may seem unintelligent to the people around you. I bet they are asking the same question to themselves..

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Asking the hard or sobering questions everyone else is hesitant to ask often helps me navigate learning and performance strategies and designs when I partner with my clients. These questions reveal the true problem the client is facing.

Looking back at my experiences helps me helps avoid making mistakes in the future. Before you seek advice on what you are contemplating, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will happen if I do this? 
  • Whom will this affect and how? 
  • Is there a missing piece that will help me decide? 
  • Have I experienced this before and if so, what was the outcome?

Any kind of failure is worth a moment of reflection. When you find areas that need improvement, you may need help in how to improve—you won’t always have the answers. Set aside your pride and ask.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned that growth is key not only to my success, but also the success of the work I do. I hope this reflective writing will help you in your career and experience. These pause points are critical for what comes next.