Our CHRO, Sirmara Campbell, had the opportunity to speak with Year Up’s newest class. The nonprofit organization empowers low-income young adults to go from poverty to professional careers. She shared her journey, career path, and biggest life lessons with students.
Sirmara grew up on the west side of Chicago in the Austin neighborhood. If you aren’t familiar with this area of the city, it has limited access to opportunities and educational resources. Sirmara started working at 16, knowing that a strong work ethic and education would be her keys to a better future. After graduating high school, Sirmara worked at the LaSalle Network to put herself through college. Working 40-50 hours a week on top of a full course load, she fueled herself on Ramen Noodles and Fruit Loops. Today, she’s a successful business leader at one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies. Here are her top tips to owning your development:
Don’t be afraid to talk to people - Step out of your comfort zone, strike up a unique conversation, and reach out to someone new. You may be surprised what you learn.
Show up - and show up on time. People remember you if you’re early, they don’t if you’re late.
Read (or listen) - Consume anything that will make you better and stronger. Read or listen to audiobooks, and subscribe to podcasts (Sirmara loves HBR’s IdeaCast). Her book suggestion: Shonda Rhimes’ the Year of Yes.
Network- You’re going to meet a lot of important people during your lifetime. Remember to stay in touch through thank you notes and email. If you ask them to coffee or lunch, make sure you’re on top of your game.
Stop caring about what people think of you- focus on what it takes for you to succeed. It’s inevitable that someone won’t understand. Make sure that the people you surround yourself with bring you up, not down.
Don’t complain- People are quick to blame everyone else. Before you criticize, look in the mirror and ask yourself what you can do to make your life better.
Sirmara’s advice rings true not only in the professional world, but in life’s big picture. Whether you come from humble beginnings or not, practice a strong work ethic, cultivate strong relationships and feed your hunger to learn. It’s bound to help you grow.
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