Each year, March is noted as Women’s History Month to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women throughout history. The theme for 2023, as announced by the National Women’s History Alliance is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”

In the same spirit, today I am sharing 5 Key Principles I wish I knew when I was starting my professional career.

  1. Capitalize Your Strengths: Know your strengths. Find how you add unique value. Recognize and acknowledge what makes you unique. Get super clear on your priorities, motivational anchors, and your strengths. When you align your work based on your strengths, you will do your best work and be set up for success. Early in my career, I thought I had to operate like my boss. I failed miserably because I wasn’t being authentic to myself. I realized much later that I added the most value when I used my strengths and pioneered initiatives that were aligned with my strengths.
  2. Continuously Learn New Skills: Prioritize and make Continuous Learning an inherent part of your life. Learning promotes growth, which leads to positive outcomes. “Education is what people do to you and learning is what you do to yourself.” said Joi Ito in his famous TED Talk. Learning needs to be prioritized, or it may never happen. It needs to be intentional and deliberate. In my early professional days, I used to think I would learn something new when I had some free time. I realized soon enough that there never was any free time. We need to shift our mindset to emphasize, prioritize and plan learning opportunities. Learning needs to be flexible, continuous, and sustainable throughout our entire life.
  3. Be Curious, Ask Questions: We all create biases and judgments. And we make assumptions along the way. I certainly did. Assuming people knew what I wanted and not explicitly stating my needs created confusion. A lot of damage is done when we confuse our assumptions with the truth. So instead, what if we encourage curiosity, ask more questions, and really listen to the answers? No one is perfect. No one knows the answers to everything. There is no need to feel small or stupid. Get curious, ask questions about the things you don’t know, and validate your assumptions about the things you think you know. “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” – Roy T Bennett
  4. Seek & Filter Advice: They say “Feedback is a gift”. Yes, it truly is. But be careful of how much influence you allow to all the feedback you receive. Everyone has some advice to offer. It gets confusing and cumbersome after a while. I learned the hard way to ignore feedback that did not align with my gut instincts. Not all feedback serves you well. Remember that. Get clarity about areas you want to improve and use feedback related to those areas to allow you to grow. Spinning in multiple directions is not going to be fruitful.
  5. Create A Strong Professional Network: When I started my professional career, I was only focused on doing my job. I did not spend time building my network. Much later I realized a strong professional network is crucial for ideation, sharing, support, and growth. Networking isn’t just about how people can help you, but also about how you can help others. Networks aren’t built overnight. The time investment you make now will benefit you throughout your career. Trust, support, and inclusivity – all are key to creating a strong network. Building strong professional relationships allows you to adapt, leverage, and collaborate to manage constant change.

Aparna Bavle is an Entrepreneur and a Financial Consultant helping families with smart, tax-advantaged strategies for personal finance. As a Leadership Coach and Founder of Success Path, she also teaches new aspiring managers how to build strong, effective teams and grow their careers. With a Masters in Software Engineering from San Jose State University, Aparna spent 20 years in the software industry, in various leadership roles, adding value to engineering teams, working with companies like Amazon, Ticketmaster, PayPal, and America Online. Her mission in life is to inspire and empower people to do their best and create a lasting impact. She is passionate about mentoring and supporting women to recognize and harness their strengths. Aparna is a current cohort of the ACEL Mentorship Program. She is a fitness enthusiast and enjoys yoga, traveling, camping and hiking with her family.