Career Power-UpCareer Skills

Three Pieces of Career Advice I Will Always Live By

By Paige Kassalen

Defining moments are things that happen throughout our lives that influence our decisions. They don’t have to be experiences that happen above a certain age or are tied to our careers. These moments are things that have stuck with us and helped create the people we are today.

As you read this, think through some of your defining moments and how those experiences have influenced your decision-making in your career. Below, I provide three pieces of career advice that have been driven by different defining moments.

1. Don’t be embarrassed to give yourself a perfect score

During a sixth-grade math class, my teacher passed out scoring rubrics and asked us to grade ourselves on a recent project. I remember thinking that I couldn’t do a 10 out of 10 because that would be obnoxious and 9 out of 10 seemed presumptuously high as well. So, I settled on an 8 out of 10.

My teacher came around and started questioning my self-grade:

Teacher: “Did you not give the project your best effort?”

Me: “No, I gave it my best effort.”

Teacher: “So, are you saying that your absolute best effort is still only deserving of an 80%?”

As I mentioned, this moment happened to me in sixth grade, but it has resonated with me since. Why do we feel like we need to rank ourselves lower or downgrade our accomplishments when asked to provide feedback on our performance? This still happens all the time when it comes to performance reviews in our careers.

Never be embarrassed to give yourself a perfect score. We know when we’ve been busting our butt and driving results, so let’s not be afraid of giving ourselves the acknowledgement we deserve. Plus, if we don’t think we deserve a perfect, then why would someone else believe it?

2. Never be the one to take yourself out of the running

For every career decision I’ve made, people asked if I am sure that I want to go down a certain path. My answer to this question is always “no,” because I don’t need to confidently know if I want to take an opportunity before even applying. That decision should be reserved until I know the outcome.

It seems so simple right? Get the offer or get the opportunity, and then decide if you want to say yes or no, but this is not common practice. Instead, we end up not applying at all unless we are 100% certain we would take the opportunity, which means we never see what could have transpired.

Many of us have imposter syndrome, and this imposter syndrome makes us question if we are qualified for certain opportunities. If you take yourself out of the running because you fear that you might not be good enough, you are unconsciously putting a cap on what you can accomplish in your career.

Instead, put your name in the hat and let someone else disqualify you if you are not the right fit. By making sure to never take yourself out of the running, you might be surprised to learn that you were more qualified than you realized.

3. When you’re struggling with a task, ask yourself if someone else could do it better

When I was working with Solar Impulse, the first solar-powered airplane to fly around the world, I had many ups and downs as a young engineer starting my career.

When I was feeling frustrated that I did not understand something and starting to question if I was smart enough or experienced enough to do things, I would stop and think “could someone else come in and do this job better than I can?”

In this scenario, my answer was “no.” What we were doing had never been done before, so anyone would be facing these same issues. Plus, if I had to bet on one person who I could 100% count on to put in the work to get something done, I would always bet on myself.

There are times when there is a mismatch between skills and job responsibilities, but typically we are just feeling a bit of imposter syndrome or having a momentary lapse in confidence. When we ask ourselves if someone could do the job better, we start remembering exactly why we are the right person for the job.

Sharing career advice driven by defining moments is what makes our advice interesting and unique. I’m excited to keep having defining moments and keep learning from those experiences. For now, I’ll continue to live by my three pieces of career advice: (1) don’t be embarrassed to give yourself a perfect score; (2) never be the one to take yourself out of the running; and (3) when you’re struggling with a task, ask yourself if someone else could do it better.

Look out for defining moments in your life. See which ones resonate with you and become the guiding pieces of advice that guide your decision-making.


Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Fast Company and the Huffington Post. After Solar Impulse, Kassalen has helped Covestro and JPMorgan Chase develop and implement strategies to embrace a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now uses her problem-solving skills at an artificial intelligence startup, CrowdAI, where she leads the implementation of computer vision solutions for existing commercial customers.

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