The Five Most Important Career Lessons I've Learned Since Leaving Corporate America

Leaving the corporate world to go out on my own was a life changing experience. I remain grateful to all the mentors I had the pleasure of working with during my time in a traditional role, as their guidance has proven to be invaluable. My corporate experience also has undoubtedly excelled me in all of my independent ventures. Over the last two years I’ve gained some instrumental knowledge, but have also faced some harsh realities that come along with being an entrepreneur or an independent contractor.

Here are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along my journey so far:

You’re never too old to follow your dreams or make a change. Whenever I discussed my dreams of being a writer with old co-workers, I’d always preface my conversation with: In another life I would have been a writer. I essentially had already closed the book on that dream. I thought I was too old, even only being in my late thirties. I had a family who depended on my income, and I had already spent the previous 13 years climbing up the ladder in my current industry. Why on earth would I leave that stability? Because eventually in order to feel fulfilled – I had to. Dreams do not actualize without you daring to dream in the first place. Life truly is too short, and there is no better time than the present. Once I did jump, I realized my story was not so unique at all. People take this sort of leap of faith every day – and so can you.

Make goals and write them down. The first day after my last day in Corporate America, I took a pen to paper and wrote down several goals. Three were short term and three were long term. I didn’t hold back on dreaming big, either. Even though I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to achieve these goals at that point in time, I knew writing them down would be the first step on my road map to success. Writing goals down also gave me something to continuously work toward. Goals are measurable, and each time you meet them your confidence grows. My long term, shooting-for-the stars, goal was to become a contributor for the Huffington Post within two years. In early March 2015, almost exactly two years to the day of writing my goal down, I became a Huff Post contributor. Making goals, and more importantly writing them down, works. I encourage you to put yours to paper – now.

Success is a marathon not a sprint. Starting your own business, or branding yourself as an independent contractor, is a lot of work. More than I ever imagined. Unless you’re a celebrity, unfortunately many people do not know who you are – or what you do. It’s your job to spread the word and get noticed. You also have to learn patience. As someone who missed this virtue when they were being handed out, this was a very hard lesson to learn for me. We all want results yesterday! When building your brand, time is your new best friend. You have to make the most of your time by doing daily activities to promote growth. These small daily activates are what lead to success. Short cuts do not exist in entrepreneurial land. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Some people will not support you. Many think being an entrepreneur or an independent contractor is not a real job. Your job is very real and convincing non-believers – should not be a part of your job description. You can’t take these opinions personal. Your dreams may not be theirs, so they don’t get it. The good news is – they don’t have to! That’s why it’s your dream, not theirs. There will be many others who do support you and will appreciate your desire to follow your dreams. Plus, if your friends will not support you – you always have the option to find new ones.

Successful people were once failures. People give up on their dreams every day due to the fear of failing. I’m here to tell you that you will fail – many times. Successful people fail their way to the top. Don’t look at failure as defeat; look at failure as the opportunity to learn and persevere. Each rejection or hurdle you face is only going to make you stronger. Failure is just part of the game.

As an entrepreneur you’ll work harder than you ever did before, but the difference is you’re working toward your dreams – not someone else’s. Ultimately, the sacrifice is worth it.

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