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What Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?

Do you wish you had your current knowledge when you were newer to your career? We asked area business professionals, “If you could go back in time and give your younger self professional advice, what would you say?”

Interviews by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

“I’d say, ‘You are better, stronger, smarter and more resilient than you could ever imagine. Truly seize the day and live each and every moment of it. You have the power! And when you hear about a little-unknown company named Apple, buy as much stock as you can.

Leah Haggerty,
Broker and owner, Century 21 Leah’s Signature in Fulton

“Over time, you’ll find a career that strikes the perfect balance: one that thrives on your abilities and interests but also supports a financially independent lifestyle. Don’t think of retirement as the finish line. If you’ve found your calling and your health permits you to continue to work, then why quit? I happen to be 65 years old, but I have no plans to hang it up any time soon.”

David D Mirabito,
Senior financial services executive, Financial Partners of Upstate NY in Fulton

“I would say, ‘Don’t be afraid to take a risk.’ I was very, very conservative and I should have taken greater risk and extended myself in a much broader manner. I grew everything very cautiously.”

Carol Fletcher,
President of C.R. Fletcher Associates, Inc. in Syracuse

“I would tell my younger self to pace yourself and really set some goals. Sometimes the business carries you. If you can be very proactive on what your goals are, make sure those are always working. It’s easy to get sidetracked.”

Gail Cowley
Owner and executive vice-president, Cowley Associates in Syracuse

“I’ve learned a lot about leadership over the years. I probably should have spent more time connecting with people and inspiring people in the workspace. It’s important. In the past seven years, I’ve spent a lot of time developing leadership skills and doing self reflection. Had I started 10 years before, I’d be even better than I am today.”

Joe Szlosek,
Owner JAS in Syracuse

“I have always been a person who makes goals and puts a plan together and works the plan. I think the comment I would make to myself in my mid-20s as I was working for someone else versus working for myself, ‘You should never underestimate the benefit of education and learning. You cannot learn enough. Whatever situation you’re in and whatever role you’re playing, there’s always an opportunity to learn from a college, a community and leaders where you work. Network, ask questions, read, understand and want to learn more. Be comfortable and competent in what you know and accept what you don’t know.’”

Kara Rudy,
President of MarketDesign Consulting in Syracuse

“’Business relationships matter more than you think. Everyone from the copier vendor, to your landlord, to the parking lot attendant, could at some point have an impact on your career. Open, honest communication should be your hallmark. You can learn as much from a bad manager as you can from a good one — just make sure you emulate the good one. If you are one of the first to arrive at work in the morning, you will always be ahead of those who come later. Shake hands firmly. Don’t break bones, but even more importantly, don’t be a wimp. Don’t be afraid to disagree, but once you have made your point, and are sure you have been heard, don’t belabor the issue. If you’re not having fun at work, it’s time to look for something else.”

Virginia Biesiada O’Neill,
Chief administrative officer with Pioneer Companies in Syracuse

“Invest yourself in others. The old adage ‘what goes around comes around’ is true, including the time you invest in providing opportunities to others. As you develop the talents of others and open the door to promotions and a path forward for those around you, the same will happen to you in return. Prove the naysayers wrong. There are lots of people who will tell you that you can’t do this or that. They may say you don’t have the ability or skills. Instead of believing that, take the time to figure out a plan to develop the needed skills, build relationships with those who can help, and stay positive. Be flexible in career opportunities. These days, it is hard to find someone who has climbed the ladder at one company or stayed in the same general job all the way to retirement. Don’t say no when given assignments. Sometimes, you may be asked to take on an assignment you may not really like or may require you to learn a new skill or method.”

Leslie Paul Luke,
President and CEO, St. Joseph’s Health in Syracuse

“I’m very good at finding and developing people. I’d tell the younger Anne, ‘Keep doing it.’ I’m fair at identifying a business board. Something I’m not good at is paying myself first. It is hard.”

Anne Messenger,
Principal at Messenger Associates in Manlius

“As I begin my 25th anniversary of being a woman entrepreneur in 2020, I would tell my former self, ‘You will open hundreds of new doors, meet amazing people, expand your business, and do so much more than you dream of doing when you begin. Every time you start a new business, service or product, write a book or lead an organization, you’re life changes for the better. Keep saying “yes” to as many opportunities as you can, stay humble, eager and innovative.’”

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham,
President, Women TIES, LLC in Syracuse

“My best advice to my past self would be invest in yourself.”

Marie Schadt,
Owner K-9 Grooming and Pet Motel in Oswego

“I would tell my past self to set better goals, and be more diligent and intentional with the process to achieving those goals and to enjoy the ride. Celebrate the small successes while you are working on the big goals.”

Michele King,
Owner, Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers of Oswego

“The advice I would give to my past self if I could would be, ‘Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to know everything at once. Do what you know. For what you don’t know, be a good student and learn the best you can. Be willing to ask for help. No successful person gets there by themselves. Be a Go Giver and surround yourself with Go Givers [based on the book “The Go Giver”). If you are the smartest person in the room then you’re hanging with the wrong crowd. Be around people who have more knowledge and experience than you.’”

Debbie Bilello,
Administrator, Fort Brewerton/Greater Oneida Lake Chamber of Commerce

“Expect more of employees, look to expand your market reach and charge more for work you do.”

John Henry,
Owner Speedway Press, Mitchell Printing & Mailing Inc. and The Phoenix Press in Oswego

“Be humble, take risks and know what you are worth!”

Kerrie Ann Webb,
CEO, Oswego YMCA in Oswego

“Try not to hold people to the same standard as you hold yourself. Most people will see things differently than you. Use it as an opportunity to learn from their perspective.”

Garrette Weiss,
Business education liaison, Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation in Mexico

“Read 10 pages a day and live by the six P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Pitiful, Poor Performance.”

Dustin Trimble,
General manager, The Eis House in Mexico

“Listen and learn as much as possible. Free education from others with years of experience is better than paying for education.”

Brenda Weissenberg,
Owner/manager, Affordable Business Solutions in West Monroe

“I’ve always had great mentors and advisers. I haven’t always checked in with them as often as I should. It’s easy to think I can solve problems because I know my business but no one person has all the answers. Don’t forget the people who have helped you.”

Steve Chirello,
Owner of Chirello Advertising in Fulton