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Career Advice from Mother to Daughter

In this touching letter, DeAnna Busby-Rast shares some of the lessons she's learned in her professional career with her daughter.

 

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My daughter just started her professional journey, and it's bringing up a lot of memories. I have learned so many hard lessons since I started my own professional journey. I found out just how vital mentorship is, how to be real, ask questions, learn through experiences, and test myself. It took me too many years to realize that being yourself is the best, that I shouldn’t apologize for it, and that I was just as good as the next person. I want my daughter to learn all of these things - and hopefully learn them much faster than I did. So, I wrote her a letter.  

 

To my dear daughter,

So many people tell me you and I are just like each other. I wonder if you know how much that fills my heart. I am so proud of you. I look at you and I see great things. You are passionate, hardworking, you have dreams, you set goals. Watching you is one of the greatest joys in my life and I am lucky to be called your mom. 

I see so much potential in you. I see your spirit in your eyes. I see the thirst for greatness in everything you touch. The truth is, you remind me of my younger self and I want all the best life can give you. 

I know work is very important to you. I want to help you prepare, and remind you that you deserve all good things. You are just as good if not greater than those around the table. 

I also want to tell you about some of those hard lessons I learned in my career. Maybe you can find yourself and overcome some big challenges a little faster than I did. Maybe I can help you avoid some of the painful mistakes I made.    

 

Where you are right now, at this moment in your life, is exactly where you are supposed to be.

The way things are right now will not be the way they are tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, etc. When you think about your life, remember it is yours, you own it! 

When you own it, fully and completely, you’ll project your best, most authentic self. And that’s the person I want you to be. Here’s how you can do that:

 

Don’t be swayed by what people want you to do with your life, or what they think is best for you. 

Be thoughtful and open to ideas but remember this is your life. You must create your path forward. 

I knew early in my career I wanted to be in a role that allowed me to educate and consult. I loved listening to challenges and creating solutions to those challenges. I saw myself in sales, in consulting, and at some point maybe running my own business. My path took me to sales and sales leadership. My career is a great balance for my core strengths, but getting here and staying here wasn’t always easy. 

For so many years I tried to conform to the way people wanted me to be. I was told over and over again “you are too direct,” “you are too emotional,” or “that job is better suited for a man or maybe a woman with no children because they have more flexibility.”  I chose to be a mom with a career. Unfortunately, that was not always well received. 

I remember someone telling me, maybe you should choose a different career where you don’t have to travel so you can be home and be a mom. Sometimes these messages came from my own family. I felt conflicted for so many years. Was I a bad mom? Could I be a better leader? Was I not getting the promotion because I was a mom?

Truth be told I always wanted to be a mom and to have a career. I just didn’t know how difficult it would be to be great at both. I learned over time to forgive myself for lacking the perfection I thought I must have. In my mid 30’s I learned to stand up for myself and my own decisions. Eventually, the workplace improved and the value of work-life balance started to take effect.  Good companies realized the family comes first, and women could have both careers and family. 

The point is, I rose above it, but I beat myself up in the process. I cried one too many times. I often felt alone. I didn’t have people to share these struggles with. I needed mentorship but my only mentors were men and most didn’t understand. Even if they did, I felt like they silently believed that I should be at home too. As time prevailed, I rose above this conflict, but it happened too late in my career. I want you to be you, be strong, and try as hard as you can to remove doubt. 

 

Have a vision and see yourself doing what you love, but learn to be okay with how that vision changes over time. 

Stay connected to yourself and do not waiver on anything that you know is right and true by you. 

When I was 18, like most young high school graduates, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I had a dream of being a make-up artist in Hollywood or NYC, so I decided to go to cosmetology school. That vision changed abruptly.  

In November 1988 I was sick and diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I was hospitalized for about 2 weeks. Back then, once you turned 18 you were on your own for health insurance. Working part-time and going to cosmetology school simply wasn’t going to work if I had any intention of taking care of my disease. So I dropped out and pivoted to full-time work where I knew I could get insurance. 

I worked for a timeshare company, and certainly knew this was not my long-term place of employment, so I walked into the University of Nebraska at Omaha and signed up to take college credits. I knew that I wanted to get my undergraduate degree, but I must have changed my major 3 or 4 times. I ended up working full-time and taking 15 credit hours a semester during night classes. 

I later landed a great job at a large company in Omaha, NE. They were growing fast and had a great reputation. The position that required travel. This immediately diverted my plan again, and I shifted from night classes to acquiring my undergraduate degree via an accelerated program. This allowed me to go to school for 6 hours on Saturdays, and travel during the week. After 8 years of school, I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Sales and Marketing. 

Even though my vision for myself changed dramatically, I ended up doing great things and working for great companies. I got to travel the world, I flew to exciting places, I got to see NYC and Hollywood and so many more places. The best part of this is I found my true calling in mentoring, consulting, training, presenting, and leading teams within sales and marketing. 

In life, you are guaranteed to see change. This, of course, means the idea of what you thought you were going to do may change. It is the power of a positive mindset that allows new visions to flourish. Allow new visions to flourish and always pursue the opportunities in front of you.    

 

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are great. 

We must be real and know that we will doubt ourselves. I have doubted myself. I have questioned myself. I hit one of the darkest moments in my life at the age of 50 in September 2020. I always thought that my hard work would prevail, that if I knew my goals, and I met those goals I would be safe. Well, that isn’t true. 

My point in sharing this with you is that it is okay. You will likely face hard times. You may get a negative performance review, you may be shut down, you may lose a significant deal you are working on, you may not get that job you thought you really wanted. In those moments of despair or when negativity creeps in, that is when you will be challenged the most. 

Allow yourself to assess, to reflect, and to understand what went well and what didn’t. Ask yourself what you can own and what you can change. Give yourself time to be sad or angry, but remember whatever the situation is, it is temporary. One of my greatest attributes is my ability to let go, to forgive, to move on and see light at the end of any tunnel regardless of the length of the tunnel. 

Look at yourself in the mirror during the good times and the bad times. Remind yourself of who you are and how great you are inside and out. Tell yourself that you amaze people. Pat yourself on the back for every accomplishment. Do not apologize for how people are drawn to you. Do not put yourself down. Stay above it! You are great, and you will do great things. 

 

Raise your hand and raise your voice. 

Truth is, this has never been a problem for me. I always seek out opportunities to learn and one of the best ways to learn is to ask questions. Do not be afraid to speak up and say you do not know. It is okay. When you have an idea, share it. When you think or believe something is wrong or damaging, speak up. When you want that promotion, ask for it. When you want that raise – say it. 

 

Always hold integrity in high regard. 

In work, you will see others wander away from integrity. Do not let that happen to you. Hold people accountable for their words and actions. Hold yourself accountable for your words and actions. 

 

Take risks – embrace the willingness to win or fail! 

Remember if you do not try, you will never know. Failure is a part of life, and it is what supports our growth as individuals and as professionals. Both winning and losing require reflection. We need to reflect so we know what to repeat and what not to. There will always be another opportunity. Reflection helps us prepare for it. 

Taking risks is still something I’m working on. Some people think I am a risk-taker, but the truth is I am a cautious risk-taker. For me, that unfortunately meant letting go of my idea of owning my own business because of fear of failure. Instead of taking that risk, I have stayed doing what I know I’m good at. I’m still happy. I love getting the opportunity to engage with people every day, for me that is fun. However, at 50 I am learning to step out of my comfort zone…who knows, your mom may have something up her sleeve.  

 

And one last thing: Be true to yourself!

As I bring this letter to a close, let me remind you that there is no one in this world like you! Be true to yourself, with your thoughts, your words, and your actions. To do that, you need to trust yourself and make sure your heart and your mind are always connected. I have always told you and your brother since you were little to keep your heart and your mind connected, it helps us make the right decisions. 

I hope you put this letter in a special place. And when times are hard, I hope you pull out this letter, sit down with a cup of coffee and read it again. It will be good for your soul and will offer some guidance as you grow in your career and your life. 

Love you!