Key Career Learnings

Ange Connor

Bad decisions, mistakes, feedback and learnings are what shape our career and make us who we are. How you reflect on those situations, what you take away from them and apply from them can help us grow and develop in our careers, or they can be the cause for us to stagnate. I’ve had many key learnings – I like to call them learnings as opposed to failings because while they were failures, I’ve always been more focused on what they taught me and how they made me a better person.

One of my most significant learnings has been the importance of having the courage to ask the hard questions at the time they need to be asked. On many occasions earlier in my career, I shied away from asking the questions that in my gut were questions I knew I should have asked and conversations I knew I should be having, but fear of the response/answer held me back. This actually in turn, only caused more problems down the track, and had I had the courage to ask those questions, these situations could have been handled and dealt with much more effectively.

When Inspire HQ was first launched, I started out with a business partner. I had previously worked with my business partner and when we decided to take the plunge to go into business, we were both ready, needed a new challenge and were passionate about forging a new path for ourselves. It was a hugely exciting (and scary) time planning the business. After a few months of planning our service offering and coming up with a business name, Inspire HQ was launched. Our business partnership only lasted a few months and from very early on it was clear that we had different visions and expectations for what we both wanted out of being business owners.

On reflection, I think deep down I knew during that planning phase that there were some little differences in how this business was going to work and from day 1, week 1, month 1, those little differences grew into different perspectives and expectations. What resulted was that there then had to be many hard conversations about where to from here, and we were having the kinds of conversations a few months in that we definitely should have been having in the planning stages.

I had shied away from asking those hard questions of my business partner and of myself in the planning stage, which resulted in probably even harder conversations down the track. We were fortunate that we were able to navigate that time as well as possible. She moved on to running another hugely successful business and I continued on with Inspire HQ.

Why did I shy away from those conversations in the planning stage when I think I honestly had a gut feeling that I should have been raising some of those questions? They were what would appear to be minor questions such as the detail of how the business would actually work; questions like expectations around being able to draw a wage in the early days, how we would balance things given I was able to work full time, yet with her young family she could only work part time. They seem like such simple conversations to have, but on reflection, the detail was gleaned over and we were caught up in the excitement of launching a new business. I’ve always been a big picture thinker and detail doesn’t come naturally to me, so my personality profile probably didn’t help the situation.

However, after much reflection, if I am really honest with myself, I think I held back asking those questions because at the time I was scared of what the answers to those questions would be. I think deep down I knew we were thinking differently, but asking those questions might have meant that we didn’t go into business and then if I had the courage to go it alone. Going into business together and failing together seemed easier than going it alone.

My learnings from that experience have been to have the courage to step up and ask the hard questions at the time they need to be asked. As hard as they might seem at the time, I’ve learnt that they often become even harder questions to ask when you’ve put them to the side, and regardless, they come to the surface at a later date anyway and you are often just delaying the inevitable.

I’ve fallen into this trap of not asking the hard questions at the right time on a few occasions. I’ve shied away from asking the hard questions when managing people to when working with a new client and taking a job brief. Thankfully I believe I have become much better at this. Working with a mentor has been a big help, as being able to talk through with them the scenario helps you realise that ‘yep, I really do need to ask this question and have the conversation.’ The values we have created and live by at Inspire HQ have also helped me to hold myself accountable when having to ask these hard questions. Our values of No Bull$#!t and Being great together are my two go-to values when I am hesitating about asking a hard question. I ask myself, by not asking the hard question am I living and breathing our values, and this usually indicates to me that I do need to ask the hard question.

If it hadn’t been for all of the career learnings I’ve had in my life, I wouldn’t be the person and business owner I am today and Inspire HQ wouldn’t be the business it is now. We all continue to learn throughout our career and this helps us evolve into the people we are and become. An important thing throughout our careers is to always stick to our values and grow from our key career learnings.


About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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