Three Lessons I’ve Learned So Far: Musings from a Mid-Level Professional

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Sonya GilpinBy: Sonya Gilpin

I have officially entered the no-man’s land. It’s the seemingly endless catch-all between the juniors and the boss. It’s dominated by ambiguous titles like Specialist, Strategist, and Consultant. I’ve reached the dreaded five-seven year mark.

The fear of getting lost in the void can be gripping, but I take comfort in the few modest learnings I’ve collected so far. I would like to share them in the hope they bring some shred of reassurance to those of you in my tribe:

  1. I don’t always need to be the successful candidate. I learned the most about myself when I didn’t get the job. I won’t pretend it wasn’t a bit disappointing, or that self-doubt didn’t take over for just a split second. But the experience also gave me a strange sense of ownership. What I’m great at, where I can improve (*cough* math), the type of mentorship I want, the type of structure I need, the dynamics I value, and how I value myself: reflecting on where I don’t fit has helped guide me to where I do.
  2. It’s important for me to stretch. I don’t mean to suggest that I would ever misrepresent myself, or pursue a job I was completely unqualified for. (I strongly advise against either of those things). Instead I openly embrace opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone. At first it was scary. Failure loomed in a haze of high blood pressure and even higher caffeine intake. Then one day I finally looked up and realized how far I had come. Now I crave a challenge. Taking risks forces me to set milestones. It helps me be more strategic and improve exponentially faster. I still get nervous, but I’m much better at embracing it now.
  3. Volunteering is as valuable to me as paid work. I’ve always been very fortunate to work for great leaders who have empowered me to pursue my interests. But every role has its limits. I’ve found the best way to supplement my career growth is by volunteering. As a member of the IABC London Board, I have had an opportunity to lead large teams, own and execute strategy and operations, and get to know many of the dynamic people in our community. I’ve benefited from a level of enrichment I never could have expected from my day-job alone. These opportunities have been priceless.

I know I still have a lot to learn before I reach the next level. For those of you on the same quest, join me at this month’s PD event: “Manage your career transition and become a communications superstar!”. I hope to see you there!

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