The new year always makes me pause for reflection. In between the hugs and kisses, football games, and copious amounts of food during the holiday season, I managed to steal away a few minutes for myself. I began to think about how much my idea of  “home” has shaped my value system. My family hails from Trinidad, where culture and values are deeply intertwined. I’ve found the same to be true here at LinkedIn. Those values and what they taught me were an integral part of how I actually landed my first job out of college.

Maybe you’re entering the spring semester of your senior year with no idea what’s coming next. Or perhaps you just graduated and are trying to steer your career in the right direction. Wherever you find yourself, know that you are not the only one. I’ve been there, and want you to learn from some of my experiences so that mistakes which can be avoided are.

Here are three insights from my personal experience that just might help you clear through the fog when it comes to picking your first job.

guy looking at his phone on the street

I was painfully honest about what I wanted.

I wasted large portions of my senior year of college not being honest about what I wanted. I saw what my friends were doing, and tried to emulate. But when I started being truthful about what I wanted out of a career and a company, the fog started to lift. I wanted a place where I would be challenged and forced to adapt. Where ideas could be nurtured and grown, even if the end result seems impossible. It is an uncomfortable process, but when you’re truthful with yourself, the results are liberating.

I knew my worth.

Part of the reason I came to LinkedIn was due to how effectively  people’s natural talents are being utilized. I saw growth happening in real time, and it was celebrated and actively supported regardless of function. One of my mentors during college, Troy Cosey, was the reason I came to LinkedIn. His career has transformed in 2 years, and the impact he has grown to have has been exponential. What made it even more impactful was that he reached out to share his success with me. He sold me on LinkedIn because our relationship mattered, more than anything else. That showed me that LinkedIn was a place that shared that value, which made my decision to come here much easier. I knew I was joining a place where my colleagues are the best at what they do, our leadership team dreams big, and I am never the smartest person in the room. I have Troy to thank for showing me that.

I had non-negotiables.  

I knew that if I moved to California, I had to be certain about two things: who I was, and what I stood for. If I had any doubts about how the company I work for does business and the reason behind it, then I did not want my name to be a part of it. Both of those things came together at LinkedIn, and the results have been remarkable. If you decide what your non-negotiables are and stand firmly by them, you can find a clearer path to where you want to go and how to get there. It’s almost never linear, but straight lines are less fun anyway.

Most of my close friends and family know I work at LinkedIn, but don’t know much else. I can show them better than I can tell them, so they will all just come to work with me next year. What they do know is that there is no question about my integrity when I come to work everyday. I have them to thank for showing me how to live with conviction, lead by example, and practice humility daily. That’s the beauty of culture and values: you can bring them wherever you go.