1. You are responsible for your own career progression.
In the first few years of my career, I was naïve to think that if I worked hard enough and showed results, the rewards would follow soon after. I really thought that my work and results would speak for themselves and allow me to progress in my career. I was wrong. Well, kind of.
If I could go back to 22 or 23, I would tell younger Moni that the only person who is truly invested in her career is herself. No matter how hard you work, there is no guarantee that your boss would promote you or give you a higher score on your Performance Review (PMS score LMFAO) Nope. Any progress or movement up the career ladder is up to you, and how you play your cards. I would probably shake 22-year-old Moni by the shoulder and yell at her “Your career is in YOUR hands. Do what you think is best FOR YOU!”.
From what I know now, I would tell her to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Widen your network. Invest in your learning and self-development. Take online courses and improve your CV. Things will get toxic so start planning your exit move. Don’t be afraid to apply to other jobs, and even if you fail the interviews, reflect and learn on what to improve. Do it without regret and guilt. Get out as quickly as you can. Building your career is in your hands. Don’t regret the choices you make. As Daenerys Targaryan once said, “If I look back, I am lost.”. Don’t lose yourself and don’t look back.
2. Watch and learn carefully. Everything is a learning opportunity.
As much as I hated working in the Public Service (at PSC), it was still a valuable learning experience. The Public Service is the biggest employer in Tonga, with over 5000 people across over 20 organisations. With that kind of number and that many people, you’re bound to pick up a few things from people along the way.
One thing I started doing, perhaps a little late, was to observe the seniors and leaders around me carefully and ask myself questions based on my observations. What are their strengths? What is their communication style? How do they treat their team and subordinates? Do they treat the CEO and cleaner differently? Is this person a fair leader or a play favour type of leader? What kind of tone of voice do they use when they are challenged or disagree? Are they quick to anger and quick to punish? How do they show staff appreciation? How do they deal with last-minute changes and directions? How effective are they at delegating and planning? How innovative and creative are they? Are they reactive or proactive when resolving issues? Perhaps the most important question of all is: Are they the type of leader I want to be one day?
You have to imagine that one day, you’ll be sitting in a seat of leadership. What kind of leader do you want to be when it’s your turn? I wish I started thinking about that a little earlier in my career. I’m now in a managerial position, and this is my first time being in such a role. Although I am still new and learning, I’m grateful I had a front-row seat to study the good, the bad and the ugly of different leadership styles across the Public Service and I can apply all that I learnt to my new role. I look back to learn, but I know I'm never going back.
3. Don’t be afraid to leave when you know it’s toxic.
For 22- 26-year-old Moni, leaving a secure job in Government was one of her biggest fears. I wrote in earlier blogs I was awarded a scholarship for undergrad, so I had to work off my bond. After serving my bond, I wanted to pursue my Master's Degree, but I couldn’t do that without an endorsement letter from my supervisors and CEO. I went to do my Master's, came back and served my bond then resigned. I have no regrets now, but I know that the younger me wouldn’t have the gall or confidence to pull this off.
Like I wrote in earlier blogs, I got older and just ran out of fucks to give about the steady Government job. If there was one thing I do regret, it’s that I let myself marinate in a toxic environment for so long. I should have left when my gut told me to, and perhaps I’d have been less depressed and anxious. Who knows. If I could go back to young Moni now, I’d tell her I’m sorry for leaving you in there too long. When you know you’re in a toxic environment, hurry up and leave. And like I said before…don’t ever look back.
To the younger me...I'm sorry I did that to us. We're in a better place now, but we went through hell and fire to get here. We don't ever look back.
If you could restart your career again, what would you tell your younger self?