Building An Authentic Career in L&D

In this series, we hear from mid-career professionals, leaders, and founders on what it takes to build an authentic career, some of their challenges and proudest moments along the way, and their best piece of advice for navigating an intentional and authentic career. Get inspired below!

What's your name?

Stephen Mostrom

What's your title or function?

L&D Product Manager at Silicon Valley Bank (now First Citizens Bank)

What led you to this career path?

I’m a big believer in raising your hand for projects, especially if they scare you a little. I was working an internal consulting role at Bank of America and raised my hand for a small L&D project. The project bloomed and caught the eye of an emerging L&D team. The executive reached out for a quick phone call. 8 years later, I’m still in L&D.

What would you say is your unique zone of genius?

Love this question. It’s taken time to recognize that my natural curiosity, drive for growth, and big picture thinking can be valuable to others. I love diving into new topics, synthesizing information, and sharing it. This blends well with my work in L&D and teaching. It’s also why I enjoy writing. Good writing is all about clarity and a compelling flow. I find my internal workings help me structure the writing. And my curiosity about the world helps me uncover hidden truths and powerful stories that make the writing pop.

What's a challenge you've overcome in your career (that you're willing to share)?

I’ll get transparent here. The biggest challenge in my career has been finding my voice and the courage to put it out there. I could walk through all the reasons it’s hard for me to speak up—being an introvert, past experiences, etc. But the reality is that speaking up is scary. The fear of failure. The fear of being laughed at. The fear of making a fool of myself. These fears have stopped me cold in my tracks. To be honest, I can’t say I’ve fully overcome this. Every time I hit post on LinkedIn, or speak up in a meeting, I still feel fear bubble to the surface. When that happens, I reach for internal tools of confidence and clarity. I back myself and the goals I’m pursuing. This has been a huge hurdle. It’s one I’m still working on.

When you look back on your career what are you most proud of?

There have certainly been some big wins in my career (successful programs, awards, degrees, etc.). But by far what I’m most proud of is this: balance. At most stages of my career, I’ve been able to find balance between the work I’m pursuing, my personal life and values, and other hobbies and interests. This balance has allowed me to explore some fun career offshoots (like teaching college classes and running a business with my wife). And now that we have young children, it’s been essential to making sure I get to spend quality time with them. I’d encourage every professional to strive for balance between their work and personal life. That’s the way to stay consistent and sustainable in your efforts.

What's the job or passion project you've considered but never gone after?

I’ve got a half-dozen book ideas floating around in my head. I’ll commit right here to writing one of them and putting it out into the world. But I’m not ready to commit to a timeline yet. 🙂

What is the best piece of career advice you'd like to share with others?

Really work to define your values. I’m a firm believer that anyone can accomplish anything with the right goals and habits. But until you have clear values—a clear picture of what you stand for and what your ideal life should look like—there’s not much to aim at. So do the deep soul-searching it takes to identify who you are and what you want to pursue. From there, everything gets easier.

What does a fulfilling life and career look like for you?

Big question. Right now, I’m focused on a few sources of fulfillment. First, my wife and I are digging deep to figure out our personal and career goals—and how to blend them together. We’re looking at what we value (our children, time together, interesting work with interesting people, travel, etc.), and asking the question: how can we do more of this? Second, I’m all about working with good people. We spend a lot of time at work, and working with good people is an absolute game-changer. It leads to less conflict and more conversation. Less drama and more motivation. So, I’m aligning my efforts to where the good people are.

In you're ready to show up with intention in your career, here are three ways that we can support you. 

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2) Want to start living your most authentic life and career? Learn about The Authenticity Lab.

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