During one of my visits to a Girls Who Code group, one of the students asked me what advice I have for the next generation of girls. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to get some really good advice. So I thought I’d pass it on and also share some things I’ve learned myself.
Make your own mistakes
This was advice given to me by my amazing PhD advisor, Eve Marder. If you don’t make your own mistakes and you let someone else make them for you, you will become “bitter and twisted”. Mistakes are OK, they’re part of being human and part of our learning process. But if you let others dictate your path and allow them to make choices for you, there is nothing to learn. Don’t rob yourself of the personal growth that comes from holding yourself accountable for your choices – even if you’re wrong. Make your own mistakes and make them with courage and conviction!
Value your personal talents
Sometimes you’ll be tempted to assume that what comes easy to you is easy for everyone. Don’t overlook your own talents simply because you have to expend minimal effort to pull them off. It’s especially easy to neglect the things you’re good at when you don’t receive enough encouragement or recognition for them, so when someone complements you for a job well done, don’t write it off as a fluke. You might have a gift that is worth nurturing.
Fake it till you make it
I’ve heard this many times, from many people, and it never stops being good advice. At every stage of your life and career you’ll find yourself doubting your own abilities. It doesn’t help that there will be people who will help to seed that doubt (most without even realizing it). You’re not alone in thinking that you’re not qualified enough, or smart enough for whatever it is you deserve a chance at – it happens to the best. In those times, all you can do is fake it until you convince yourself. If you push on, there will come a point where you realize that you’re drawing on real knowledge and brainpower to “fake” your way through a situation. Confidence can be worn like a coat, and you shouldn’t leave home without it.
Don’t take any opportunity for granted
Sometimes you’ll want to coast through a task because you’re just doing it for your college applications or to check some box somewhere. Other times, you’ll wish you could walk away from an insurmountable challenge or you might be too intimidated to even try in the first place. Yet these are all opportunities to do something awesome, to learn about yourself and the world, and to gain skills or knowledge that you didn’t have before. Don’t take them for granted. You’ll be better off if you make the most out of the experiences and the challenges you take on, so go all the way!