The new year energy is abuzz right now. Though 2023 was not without its struggles and grief, overall, it was a wonderful year for me and my family. As I reflected on last year, I flipped through my 2023 planner and was reminded what January 2023 Erin had on her mind.
First, I should share some background. I love a good challenge. I am ambitious and constantly noting, both mentally and on paper, the goals and growth I would like to accomplish in all facets of my life. However, I am not one who typically writes out resolutions every year. Instead, I just kind of jot ideas down randomly or as they come to me any time of year.
Last year, though, I did write out one specific professional goal. As I came across it a year later, I had completely forgotten I wrote it out even though I accomplished it through the strategy I had outlined at the time. My goal was professional networking.
Why did I want this goal? I wrote “career growth and fulfillment.” I was feeling so hungry professionally and had been for a time. I was looking for more ways to grow and be challenged. I had a lot of work keeping me extremely busy, but it wasn’t stretching and stimulating me. At the time when I wrote the goal, I was not considering changing employment. Rather, I was looking for other ways to feed this desire such as volunteering more with industry groups and nonprofits.
How did I plan to get there? I broke my strategy into four buckets:
- Existing: Identify and reach out to people I already know.
- Familiar: Identify opportunities to engage with those I could know better.
- All new: Ask those I trust who they can introduce me to.
- Nonprofits: Identify posted and local opportunities for volunteering, boards, and the like.
I listed people I could think of that fit these categories and started reaching out. I set up times to chat with them, shared my goal, and was so grateful to be received with interest and support. Some I knew well, while others I had met once but still had a business card in my binder years later. Everyone, though, understood what it was like to have a burning desire to do more. They got it.
The result: I grew my network, strengthened my existing mentor relationships, and ultimately was offered and accepted a career opportunity outside of my dairy comfort zone, yet still in agribusiness and using my diverse skillset. I feel challenged, encouraged, and limitless. I am so proud that I took a leap of faith and so full of gratitude that others believe in me and my potential.
As I was on a call with a nonprofit committee I volunteer with last week, it was mentioned that women do not like to share their stories because they do not feel deserving. Coming across last year’s goal, noting the opportunities it afforded me by chasing it, and now reflecting on it has led me to share this part of my story. My best advice has always been to “Just ask.” In January 2023, I was not sure what I was asking for, but I knew I wanted more. I am still hungry; I suppose I always will be by my nature. But now I am also being recognized as worthy, and that has made all the difference.
The author grew up on a Florida dairy farm, obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida and has spent her career in dairy processing. She now serves as business development manager for North America with Bunge. Erin and her husband live in St. Louis, Mo., with their three children. Her personal mantra is “Be Bold.”