At the age of 22, I had just graduated from college in the United Kingdom and I was beginning my career at a Fortune 50 company. I had everything that I could ever want: I was on a track toward leadership at the company, I had just bought a new car, I was earning money and my parents were proud. But surprise, I hated it.
It just wasn’t what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. Me, who thought that I had everything figured out, had messed up at the start of her career. I was devastated. While at university and all my life, I was the type-A student who was always involved in connecting people and ideas – whether clubs, charities, or varsity sports. I loved every minute of it. The best part about it, I realized, was that I was creating opportunity and connecting people to opportunity. My job just wasn’t the same.
I picked up the phone and called a woman that I had met while at university. She had given an inspiring talk on company building and ran a small CEO recruiting firm. I had this gut feeling that this was the direction that I wanted to take my career. She told me that they weren’t hiring, but I was relentless. I wanted to learn the business and told her I would come work for her for free for one month. If I was any good we could figure it out from there.
My parents were furious (understatement) but I quit my job and comfortable life to work in executive search. It was terrifying and risky. Looking back at it, it was a great choice that defined my career and my life.
At 22, you have very little to lose – bluntly, I had no money and no career reputation at that point so what was the worst that could happen? I know that it may seem that you will fall behind or that the world will end if you don’t do the safe thing, but be realistic about it and believe in yourself – ultimately, what I lost was stability in pay for a few weeks. What you gain in learning and opportunity can and usually is far more valuable if the risk is right. I found out that I was pretty good at recruiting and there was nothing that I loved more or was more passionate about than supporting entrepreneurs in build amazing companies. From there the rest is history, I was head hunted to a great search firm, the Internet happened…. twenty years later, I’m still convinced that I have the best job in the world.
My advice to every 22-year-old out there is to bet on yourself. At any age, any new opportunity can be scary and high-risk opportunities are terrifying. But what I would have told myself at that age is that it only gets worse as you get older and you have more responsibilities. If you want to take that risky job, if you want to learn something or if you want to take that leap of faith and start a company – now is the time to do it. There is very little to lose and everything to gain. Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself.
KPCB Partner Juliet de Baubigny shares her experiences in response to LinkedIn’s #IfIWere22 editorial series .