One of the best pieces of professional advice I could offer to anyone just starting out (at anything) is to find someone who has already achieved what you consider success and model yourself after her as much as possible. Yes, be your self. Yes, bring fresh and new to the table. But if you're not ready to do that just yet...
When you're starting out or looking up the ladder or unsure of how to get to the next level, start with someone you respect and learn everything you can about what she is doing and how she does it. After all, she's already done it!
In my current company, I followed my own advice so rigorously that I showed up on my first day in the same outfit as my new boss. Just last week (five years later), someone described my new role as "sort of like what L* would do" from back in the day. What started out as a little embarrassment turned into an inspiring career roadmap.
I wouldn't have called my former boss a hero, more like a role model. But I'm reading Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields and he writes about finding mentors, heroes and champions to help remove fear and help accelerate creative growth. He references Seth Godin (skeptical of mentors) who celebrates the idea of finding heroes to emulate and learn as much as you can in the absence of a formal mentor relationship.
As someone who has shied away from formal mentor relationships over the years, this makes perfect sense. In the early days, I was too shy to ask straight out for a mentor. Or I felt like I might be bothering an otherwise busy successful person. Rather than feel disconnected or disappointed, I've gotten along fairly well by identifying these role models, dare I say heroes, to learn from, to emulate and to work alongside on real life projects. I'm an observer and an analyzer by nature. I'm introverted and not a little shy. And yet I've benefited from some fabulous relationships without even having to ask.
There are different kinds of heroes for sure, but I am so grateful for those who have gone before me. When starting with a blank slate, a great role model provides a path to follow, some confidence and a push to create your own success your own way.
Who have you modeled yourself after in your life? Would you call these people heroes?