BY JESSICA MALDONADO | Public affairs manager, PolicyWorks LLC

Recently, YouTube launched a #DearMe campaign in honor of International Women's Day to encourage women to reflect on what advice they would give their younger selves. While the initiative is aimed at inspiring teenage girls, it made me realize how much of the advice actually transcends age and still applies to women in the workforce today.


Here are five tips I would give to my earlier version of me that still apply today.


Dear 16-year-old self:


1. Don't be afraid about what others think

Remember when you quit orchestra because you didn't think it was "cool" to carry your violin in the hallway? You are going to regret that and will learn that you need to do things you enjoy and not worry about what others think. In fact, you are going to meet a lot of talented musicians later in life and wish you still remembered what a treble clef is. Well-rounded, creative people become community leaders, so experience every opportunity available to you. Don't let your concern about what other people may think hinder you from personal and professional growth.


Years from now, a woman named Sheryl Sandberg will write a book about women being their own worst enemies when it comes to career opportunities, and she is right. So don't make excuses for why you should not apply for a job or take on a challenging project. Don't be afraid to speak up when you have something to say. Things won't always go your way, but inaction accomplishes nothing and you need to welcome challenges with an open mind. (P.S. Mr. Peters -- if you are reading this, you were right.)


2. Respect your elders

You may think this only applies to people at family reunions, but you are going to work with a wide range of people when you graduate from college and need to be prepared to listen to your older and wiser colleagues. While you may graduate with an energy to change the world, you must do so strategically. You will meet some amazing business and community leaders during your first gig and realize how they have worked tirelessly for decades to better the community and make it a place where people (including young professionals) want to live and work. Their vision for Greater Des Moines took a lot of time and energy, it didn't happen overnight, and you will grow to respect the past just as much as you look forward to the future. These community leaders are a fountain of knowledge; soak up as much as you can.


3. Stay out late

I know you may take this advice too literally, but make sure to always stay involved with after-school (and in a few years, after-work) activities. Don't think about how early the alarm clock goes off the next morning; make sure to take advantage of the no-strings-attached lifestyle while you can. Attend evening functions, meet friends for dinner, live life to the fullest. And when you do get married and have kids, remember it is still OK to stay out late every once in a while. You may be tired the next morning, but you won't regret it.


4. Be loyal

Stay true to your friends, no matter what. There will be days that you will be tested and it might be easier to watch someone struggle instead of helping them, but make sure to be loyal to the people who care about you. This will help you later in life when you have colleagues who are struggling and may need help getting a project over the finish line. Instead of watching them fail, step in and help, even if there is no immediate recognition for you. In the long run, your loyalty and good intentions will pay off as people remember how you made them feel.


5. Call your mom

Stop whatever you are doing, and call your mom to say thank you. You may not understand why you are thanking her for another decade or two, but I promise you will.


Jessica Maldonado works as public affairs manager for PolicyWorks. Prior to joining PolicyWorks, she spent nearly 10 years at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, where she managed legislative events, public policy projects, advocacy issues, workforce development initiatives, the Young Professionals Connection and regional business development projects. Maldonado is a 2013 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, serves on the Community Connect Mentor Council, is a member of Variety's Polo on the Green committee, and is part of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Gala Committee.  



Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn or reach out to her by email or phone at 515-224-8963.


SHARE WITH US: What advice would you give your younger self? 

If you had the chance, what would you tell a younger version of yourself?


YouTube launched the #DearMe campaign, mentioned in Jessica Maldonado's guest opinion piece, back in March in honor of International Women's Day. The effort was meant to inspire and empower young girls everywhere who may be struggling with similar issues.


Though YouTube solicited participation in the form of GIFs, we here at Lift IOWA are big fans of the written word. If you could write a note to your 16-year-old self, what would you tell her? Be less afraid? Take more chances? Share those with us, and we will publish a few in next week's edition of Lift.