Laura Lentz FCSI: A letter to my younger self

In the week when the world celebrates women’s achievements, our regular columnist pens a note of sage advice and encouragement to herself as the young consultant at the start of her career

I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m a professional, I’m an owner, I’m a designer, and I’m a woman. In our firm, we currently have one member out on maternity leave so keeping my head above water has been important these last few months. Lately, what’s been on my mind is how I’m handling things, what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong and what I could be doing better. This is a letter meant to encourage all of the women out there who are challenging themselves and doing their best.

Dear younger me,

It has been a wild ride these past 20 years as I’ve been developing my profession and career. You sparked it all that first day you answered yes to a friend saying that there was an opening for a project coordinator. You have been the one to make all of this happen and I know you will do great things.

You will love what you do but don’t let it keep you from what’s important. As you grow, you’ll be pulled in many different directions and your family must remain the most important. Keep family a priority. Do work with others who have their priorities aligned with yours. You don’t need the project where you’re expected to work all hours of the day or night or miss a vacation. Trust me, it will be a struggle to balance every single day but don’t let people tell you that you can’t be successful and have a family.

The world will keep on spinning whether you overthink things or not, so trust your judgement and trust your gut. We are very good at evaluating decisions and getting all of the information. Use this as a strength to make you better but don’t over-do it and let it hold you back, questioning yourself or beating yourself up won’t serve you, or anyone for that matter. And you’re not going to make the right decision every single time.

Remember your service industry background and bring it to your work everyday. It’s amazing where you’ll be able to use this skill you’ve learned and no matter where you go or what you do, you are still going to be providing a service to people. Work hard to go the extra mile, anticipate the needs of your clients and make sure you answer their questions.

You will learn to listen to what people really say and read between the lines to fill in what they don’t say. You’ll work with chefs in kitchens who may use the wrong terms or be confused, but make sure you are really listening to what they say they need. You’ll work with architects who have very specific and “out there” requests that you can’t fulfill. But really listen to the intent behind what they are wanting to accomplish and find a solution for that.

When someone has constructive criticism for you, take it – take as much of it as you possibly can. Try not to be defensive about it, but try to really learn from it and gain as much of their feedback as you can because it will make you better at what you do. Unfortunately, many times you’re going to be learning as you do things wrong but focus on the important part: that you are learning.

This is going to be a process and you’re going to truly build a career so enjoy the ride, delight in your successes and make sure you celebrate them!

Love and hugs,

Older wiser me

Laura Lentz FCSI is design principal with Culinary Advisors in Maryland and a Foodservice Consultant columnist.