Human identity is a magical, complex form of self-definition. It’s a sum of people we have in our lives, life experiences, culture, language, environment and yes, your career. As you get older, you either gain a lot of clarity, confusion or a blend of both. As I begin the last year of my 20’s, I can say with confidence that no one has life fully figured out or a perfect career strategy (I certainly don’t!). But If I can dispense one piece of advice – a life lesson I’ve learned and continue to be reminded of as I meander through life in the concrete jungle that is New York City – it’s that you should always, without hesitation, be fearless in your curiosity. It will serve you well in life and your career.
Every job position that I’ve had thus far has stemmed from a side project I was working on. You see, not every job will be a perfect fit for you as I discovered very early on in my career. However, to maintain a certain level of intellectual curiosity in my day-to-day work, I’ve always proposed a side project that could serve a dual purpose of keeping me engaged while benefiting my company. This is what ultimately led me to New York City, where I’ve resided for the past five years.
I had always wanted to work in market research. There’s always been something about getting a macro understanding of the factors that influence the world and then having to dive deep into the micro details that has fascinated me. Through my special projects at my previous company, I slowly built a portfolio of work that helped me get my foot in the door at the world’s number one ranked executive search firm. In retrospect, my oblivion about the executive search industry worked in my favor. I never really wondered about how top global leaders and executives sometimes get selected for their roles. I was mostly curious about the market research role and how my eventual boss was building out his team in New York City. I ultimately spent four years there. The level of access I had to high-profile executives who were highly regarded in their respective industries was invaluable. I learned so much about organizational design, succession planning, and got a sense for what it takes to be a successful leader. Quite honestly, to get this level of insight so early on in my career was truly a unique experience. Without a doubt, my favorite part about this entire experience was simply having some grounded, real conversations with some of these executives. I’ve never been shy when it comes to meeting people and networking but that’s because I’m fearless about my curiosity. I’m genuinely curious about someone’s life journey, where they grew up, the circumstances they grew up in, what they studied and why, intimidating moments in their career, their sense of humor, what inspires them, their level of self awareness, their ability to remember people and moments, their drive, and the list goes on and on. My curiosity stems from my yearning to seek wisdom, plus I just always enjoy a good story and a human connection.
When an opportunity arose to join a company that was building out its private equity board placements practice, I knew I had to take a leap of faith and go for it. I wanted to leverage all of my learnings from the previous four years and contribute to a company’s growth and drive some of those efforts. A few months into my role, I once again took the special project approach and proposed a business metrics project that would allow me to gain some excel skills and operational insights while benefitting my group. My day-to-day role consisted of speaking with retired senior executives who might be interested in being part of the Board of Directors for a private-equity backed company. Every single conversation I had felt like a live business class, as they walked me through their business strategies and their entrepreneurial feats. I was hooked. It was through these conversations that I realized that as much fun as I was having speaking to all these people, I knew at some point I wanted to make a shift and be in a decision-making role where I could design, develop, implement and execute on my work that could potentially have a significant impact on a company. This opportunity came much sooner than I expected.
A few months ago, I got invited to lunch by a good friend who unexpectedly offered me to join his team and help drive global efforts in organization and talent for a technology company. The move would be risky but I was able to immediately remove any fear from what I was being asked to do because I simply looked at the opportunity through the lens of what I would be able to learn. Two months into my role and I am undoubtedly loving it and feel fortunate that my current company encourages me to ask questions and pilot new methods of doing things.
The sum of my work experiences has led me down paths I never imagined or expected, but what has ultimately led me there and what I will continue to rely on is my curiosity of people, companies, teams and just life in general. I’m committed to being fearless when it comes to this and I hope you will too!
Where to find Stephanie: