The Benefits of Turning 17


Will you sprint, stroll or stumble into a career?

That’s the question a New York Times article posed this week. It coincided with my 17-year service anniversary at my employer. So it got me thinking about my own career entry. I revisited my 20s, with its 5 employers and 2 career paths.

Near the end of that decade I landed my first job in my dream field of corporate communications. A few years later, a serendipitous connection through a professional association brought me to my current employer.

It was a thrill to make the leap from the aerospace industry into entertainment and technology at DIRECTV. It had been in business for 5 years, with just over 1,000 employees in 2 locations serving 5 million customers. With a career change already under my belt, I was sure this transition would be just as seamless.

That’s where I was wrong. At the end of my first week on the job, I was convinced I’d made a big mistake. The company had all the upside and downside of being in a startup stage.

But I couldn’t quit after only a week. So I decided I could do it for a year. Then I could reassess the situation and move on.

But something about the company grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I hired my first team member. And then another. I took on another function. And then another. It was and is a world of endless possibilities.

Reflecting on that time, there are a few obvious benefits. They start with building deep knowledge of the business and how it all works together to deliver on the company’s vision. Extensive networks get built over time, making it easier to know who to contact for what and how to get things done.

Well beyond that, unique experiences have brought growth and opportunity.

Working with an amazing boss today and 6 great former bosses has broadened my perspective, leadership capabilities and professional network.

Experiencing 5 different owners demonstrated the value of flexibility and agility. The best came last with AT&T’s acquisition of DIRECTV in 2015.

Working with 6 successive CEOs on corporate and executive communications during dramatic change in the company and the industry was a tremendous learning opportunity.

Starting as an individual contributor and building a team in Corporate Communications was a life-changing experience. I’m proud of the work we did together to achieve record levels of employee engagement and be recognized in The Civic 50 as one of the most community-minded companies in America.

As the company grew from a startup to the Fortune 100 and well beyond, it’s continued to be a world of possibility. My recent career pivot from corporate communications into marketing is a testament to that.

Yet navigating a career ultimately isn’t about the decision to stay put or move. It’s about ensuring there’s learning and growth wherever you are.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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