When you start your career as a graduate you find yourself constantly saying yes. Putting your hand up for everything, as you strive to prove yourself within your organisation. You are young, energetic, full of ideas and willing to have a go and take on tasks that are going to challenge you. You look forward to being given opportunities that will allow you to grow and develop as you find what you are passionate about. It is also these same qualities that I look for when hiring new graduates and interns. You must demonstrate your passion, initiative and commitment towards constantly improving and developing yourself.

As you get older and become more experienced, you realise everything changes and you find that you have to stop saying yes and learn how to say no. Ironic really, whilst you are busy delivering outcomes, developing and gaining experience, you are also building a reputation. A reputation built on your ability, aligned to all of those qualities.

This reputation is also tied to success, and success breeds success. The more successful you become the more opportunities present themselves and even though this can be flattering it can also be destructive and challenging as they distract you from what it is you are trying to achieve.

For most of us learning to say no, when you have been saying yes for years is not easy, especially when sometimes it is those same people you have always said yes to who now you are saying no. The key is knowing and being clear on your own goals and your plan. You need to ask yourself ‘Is this opportunity part of my plan?’ and ‘Will it assist me in getting me to where I need to be?’ It is difficult to say no and others will not appreciate why you would choose to do this and will often try to persuade you otherwise.  The key is to understand that you need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you attempt to help others.

It all comes back to what you want to do, what makes you tick and what energises you to get up in the morning. If you are great at what you do, design your life around your passions and what is important to you then learning how to say no will be one of the most critical skills you learn. Often it is what you say no to that will define who you are and what you will become!