Steve White in speech presentation
February 16, 2021

Three Things I Wish I Knew When I Landed My First Job

Join me as I look back on my career and wonder how I would have performed in my first professional position had I known everything I’ve learned over the years. If given the chance, I would have told my younger self three things...

It’s been twelve years since I felt like this.

Every time I start a new position, it always brings back memories of my first job. Nervous excitement that’s wound so tight you could do backflips if they were required in the job description. Today, I find myself reinvigorated by a new chapter in my life. This year promises exciting challenges associated with working on ambitious company-wide initiatives—both at Comcast and on several public boards.

I can’t help but wonder how I would have performed in my first professional position had I known everything I’ve learned over the years. If given the chance, I would have told my younger self three things:

It’s Not About You

It hardly ever is, but we often forget when we’re younger because the adults in our lives typically focus on our needs—sometimes even after we leave the nest. It’s okay to lean into your personal growth when you’ve begun your professional journey, but don’t forget that others are adapting eagerly along with you no matter their age. They might even have similar—and stronger—hopes and ambitions.

You may be familiar with Jack Welch in my Daily Wins program. He said: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” The path to leadership is about being others-focused. Sometimes rising leaders get distracted by personal achievement when, in reality, virtually every win is accomplished by a collective effort. Seek out ways you can support your colleagues, and you’ll discover numerous ways you can win together.

2. You Don’t Have to Know It All

There’s nothing like that first job to fill you with a fierce desire to prove yourself. We can’t know everything we’d like without leaning on others. Smart leaders know that intellectual humility is the key to being better learners and to creating the best solutions.

Google’s former vice president Laszlo Bock is well known for claiming intellectual humility as one of the top qualities he looked for in job candidates. “Without it,” he says, “you’re unable to learn.” It’s never too soon—or too late—to learn something new. My stepdad Smitty was a prime example of someone who knew the value of lifelong learning. A voracious reader, Smitty approached life with incredible curiosity well into his golden years and took delight in sharing what he heard or read. Open your mind and expand your talents by stepping up to life in the spirit of inquisitive souls like Smitty.

3. Be In the Moment So You Can Find Your Fight

You might have heard me talk about the importance of having a purpose in life, or what I call “finding your fight.” Without a purpose, it’s hard to eliminate distractions. Choose to be present in the current path you’ve chosen. If you’re always looking at other opportunities, you miss out on the chance to learn about what’s right in front of you and what might be your fight.

With so many demands put on our time, it’s tempting to think we can do it all. That we can multitask by serving our own agenda, scrolling through emails in meetings, and checking our inbox while on calls. Splitting your focus robs you of chances to fully participate in ways that your colleagues need you. Focus on the real prize, which is engaging in each moment. Only then can you truly see your purpose.

If given the chance, what would you tell your younger self? How do you measure up to your own advice?

Let me know your answer in the comments!

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  1. Toulee Vang

    Thank you for sharing this as the message behind it is so important. As someone who has just started a new role, all of this feedback and advice is timely and relevant. I will definitely take you up and reach out to someone I know, who is in the same situation, and share this article with them.

    The advice I would give my younger self would be similar to your #2. If you have a question, ask it. You don’t need to know everything. If you don’t know the answer to this question, I promise you someone does. Don’t guess.

  2. Kathi Overheul

    Have Confidence! You won’t have all the answers but you will have most of them and lean on your relationships to find out what you don’t know. If you don’t have an answer reply with I will get back to you on that one and keep moving forward. Do not beat yourself up for not knowing everything! Rely on your team!

  3. Ivan Castro

    Thank you, Steve. This is some great advice. I have recently moved on from Comcast Business after 16yrs in the California market to pursue my own entrepreneurship.

  4. Dave Eller

    Hi Steve. thought provoking message. My suggestion to my “younger self” is to seek out a mentor early and invest in it for the long haul. Once I had one and understood it (vs. someone I admired through observation), I found it extremely helpful to have a guide, sounding board, and feedback (both solicited and unsolicited) that helped me define my purpose and clarity on what I am about. I still use it today that professional athletes still have coaches for everything, and mentoring is part of that.

    Also, subscribe to #2 on your list. It has helped me be vigilant to hire the best and have mutual trust and respect to challenge each other.

  5. Camile Agatep

    I would tell my younger self, you may not know a lot at first, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often I’ve felt that I would be perceived as the wrong person for the job, if I had asked for help. Now many years later, I have found that we all have some insecurities, that voice in our heads, but its ok to ask for advice/help.

    Thanks for sharing Steve!



    All three points are well stated and so important in our personal growth and the influence we can have on those entering the professional world.

    Being in the moment would have helped guide me so many times early on. I was often chasing after that “next best thing” vs staying in the moment and being my best self for the company, customers, co-workers, friends and family. I have since found that re-imagining in the moment opens more doors to new opportunities and allows me to stay focused on the real prize.

    I appreciate you sharing.

  7. Nicole Eidsmoe

    So many time we are reaching up, not out. I am another believer in the now and being fully present. It is so exciting going down a new career path, but patience is a virtue so thank you for reminding me to follow my beliefs. I will remain firmly grounded in the now!

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