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Opinion: Key lessons for young leaders from a VP who learned them the hard way

There’s an age-old saying that applies to one’s professional and personal life. “Learn something new every day.” We have heard it thousands of times, but is it advice we actually take?

In my 10+ years at The Agency, I can confidently say that the days I came away with a lesson learned or learned a new skill have been my most meaningful. Having begun as an intern right out of college to now, serving as a vice president within a fast-growing division, there are a multitude of tangible, fundamental lessons that I have learned.

I’ve outlined three of the most impactful ones I’ve learned thus far.

It’s okay not to know everything.

This is a lesson that I remind myself of regularly. How can we grow with that mentality, both as individuals and professionals? There have been several times in my career when somebody is talking about something I am not an expert in or even something I SHOULD know. I’ve wanted to stay silent and hope the subject passes by without anybody asking me a question about it.

But what do I gain from that? Nothing. Asking the simple, yet uncomfortable, question of “what does that mean,” or admitting “I don’t know” can be scary.

When you’re asked a question that isn’t in your wheelhouse it will undoubtedly be something you remember for a long time to come, ultimately making you well versed and prepared the next time that subject comes up.

“That’s not in my job description” should never be in your vocabulary.

You’re asked to do something that, plain and simple, is not in your job description. Why? Oftentimes, it’s because they trust you to get the job done, and there’s no better compliment than that. It can also mean that your boss sees you as somebody that can advance in their career.

By saying “no” to what you are being asked, you are also potentially saying “no” to a future promotion. Sure, doing something outside of what you were hired to do, in addition to all of your other responsibilities, can be frustrating. But the fruits that may come from completing that task are often worth the labor.

I credit this mentality as a major reason I have advanced the way I have in my career. Who doesn’t love having a Swiss Amy Knife working alongside them?

Age does not equal worthiness

If you’re a younger person reading this and are often questioning yourself or your abilities to get the job done because those around you have more work experience, I advise you to change your mindset immediately.

Let me be clear; aim to learn as much as you can from superiors and be a sponge for any information that comes your way. But that does not translate to you being lesser than colleagues with more years of experience.

You have been hired for the role you are in for a reason. Of all the lessons I’ve learned in my career, this is the one I have struggled with the most. But once I came to this realization, it is also the one I have benefitted from the most.

For years, I was the youngest (or among the youngest) employees at The Agency. Even still, I am by far the youngest vice president in The Agency’s franchise department. Rather than being intimidated by that fact, I use it to my advantage.

I am fortunate to have a truly supportive team around me. There are different strengths that one can bring to the table, especially having held so many roles within this growing organization. Where others might have a tried-and-true method, I have a fresh perspective. Where others may be comfortable in where they are professionally, I have an unstoppable hunger to become better every day.

There are countless lessons I’ve learned throughout my career from intern to vice president. The lessons I learned being an executive assistant have helped me become a better salesperson. The lessons I have learned in being patient as a salesperson helped me in my personal life.

When we learn lessons, our professional careers and personal lives can become more intertwined than we may realize. As these continue to build year over year, they shape us as we advance in our careers. These small tangible lessons (even from the very start of our careers) can make some of the most impactful and meaningful changes in our lives, and ultimately make us a better professional, colleague, and person in society.

Ricardo Beer, is vice president of franchise sales West for The Agency.