Ideas were already turning and conversations were flowing by the time Elaine Kunda hit the stage for her lunch hour keynote at the third annual #HIVEX a young professionals and entrepreneur conference held at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, October 26.
Kunda, an entrepreneur, start-up consultant and former CEO of B5Media, took the 240 guests of the conference room on a journey of her career – sharing stories of her unchartered path and curiosity.
“Some people are fortunate enough to know what their path is from a very young age,” begins Kunda. “For most of us – myself included – understanding our passion and purpose in life is not quite as clear and obvious and therefore, a little trickier,” she continues.
Although unsure on where her career would take her, Kunda has always been curious and ready to live on the edge.
“This isn’t about setting long-term life goals, it’s about setting ourselves up for success,” she tells the under-40 crowd.
In her early twenties, Kunda was interested in sales. Unsure of where to start, she turned to her boss at the time. She recalls their message to her: “If you want to sell, go learn and do it by the best. Go work for Xerox.”
Kunda did work for Xerox and when she got great at that, a recruiter called her offering her a sales role in office furniture. Knowing that this wasn’t for her, Kunda asked the recruiter, “What do you have for me that’s sexy?”
She then landed a position at Grey Advertising. She was on top of the world and terrified at the same time. It was the late 90’s and she was about to give Fortune 500 companies advice on navigating the internet – something she, and everyone else, knew little about.
“I was attracted to the digital world, it was unknown and that excited me,” she says of her early role at Grey.
Kunda’s career has taken her down unfamiliar paths. Through the years she has learned the power of networking, thrived on the unknown and she recognizes that this hasn’t come without challenges.
“The path to success is a difficult one; business isn’t easy.”
Ultimately, Kunda left the audience with these seven take away tips:
1) Don’t panic or beat yourself up for not knowing exactly what you want to do in life. For some of us, it takes more time.
2) Do your homework whenever you can. Being unprepared never leads to success.
3) Listen to people and seek advice. Be curious; ask questions. Don’t limit yourself by what you see directly in front of you. Take advantage of the people and tools that are out there.
4) Always take the time to learn properly. If you take the shortcut, you will likely suffer from your lack of expertise one day. There’s nothing exciting or wonderful about moving backwards.
5) Listen to your gut. If you feel like you are moving up stream, not because it’s difficult but because it just doesn’t feel right – figure out a new path and start over. There is nothing wrong with that.
6) Believe in yourself that you will do what it takes to be successful.
7) Be prepared and okay for failure. It’s in the difficult times that we learn the most. Failure means that you’ve tried, you’ve taken risk, you were brave and it may not end up so badly.