We’ve all felt the immense pressure to have a plan, and the added pressure when the original plan doesn’t work out. For most people, complete panic sets in, but that’s where most people and Dasha Slavina are different. At Harvard on track to pursue a career in law, she found herself having to change course with little experience in other industries. Dasha shares her story of how she evaluated her life goals, redirected her career path and ended up making the best career decision of her life.
Twitter handle: @Slashafierce
Location: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Sales Development Specialist, LinkedIn
School: Harvard University
Secretly Obsessed With: Fashion blogs and figs
On My Nightstand: An Anthropology candle and a jewelry box from Hong Kong
Last Thing You Read: Anna Karenina
How did you get started?
The short answer to this is that my “Plan A” failed but, little did I know, that plan wasn’t actually the one for me. The longer story is that all throughout my college career I thought I was going to go into law, building my resume with internships and research positions that would prepare me for that career. That plan came to a halt when the stepping-stone job to being a lawyer didn’t pan out, and I had to reevaluate my priorities and qualifications. I made sure to give myself a “no-pressure” time period to search for what actually made me happy in these professional experiences, which ended up saving my career. I found that what I really enjoyed was working with people and collaborating with teams on solving problems, but unfortunately my resume didn’t have the hard skills for an entry-level job that involved those tasks directly.
Indirectly, however, I understood that if a company saw the potential in me and invested resources to train me for a role that had problem-solving elements, then my post-college job would put me on the right path. This is whereLinkedIn came in. By getting the opportunity to become a part of LinkedIn’s first rotation program for recent college graduates, I was provided with coaching and training to put me at the top of the leader board of my sales team. And it just so happens that I am also collaborating with clients and teammates daily to solve business needs with the help of our marketing and advertising opportunities. I am very fortunate to be in the position where I’m at today, and I could not be happier that I took the time to figure out exactly what I wanted out of my career.
What key elements played into your success?
My opportunity with LinkedIn has played a huge part in my success. This is a company that saw past my lack of relevant experience prior to the role I stepped into and, instead, chose to dedicate resources to me as a professional. There is nothing more rewarding than being given time to develop yourself when a set of responsibilities become entirely your own. LinkedIn not only entrusted me with such responsibilities but gave me coaching and mentoring to succeed in these roles. This was crucial to me realizing areas of my personal development and working on them to get to the point where I am today.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to not follow the path that everyone else seems to follow. At Harvard, there is a permeating temptation to have an after-college plan like those of so many peers preceding and surrounding you: consulting, investment banking, even going to law school. I didn’t understand how important it was to step outside of that current of influence until it spit me out — and I was that much luckier because of it. I understood that those things that worked for so many of my friends didn’t necessarily work for me or bring me happiness. Accepting that and going outside of the norm by moving across the country and trying an uncommon profession was the best thing I could have ever done.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
Besides outside pressures and influences, I have always struggled with not being introspective enough until I find myself in some sort of a dilemma that forces me to take a step back and reevaluate. I think if I was more tapped into my feelings, I could have side-stepped many of life’s avoidable consequences.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My mom. She is an immigrant just like me, but came to the U.S. having already completed her education in Russia and started a successful career. She had to start with a completely clean slate by climbing the corporate ladder from the very bottom. Seeing her prove herself and eventually catch up to the professional level she was at in Russia continues to inspire me in my professional life. She likes to think that she has reminded me of where I shouldn’t be, having had the education and experiences that I had, but I think of everything she’s been through as a constant reminder to not only work hard but to work smart.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
The answer to both of these questions is having my mother see me graduate from Harvard. The radiating expression on her face at that moment is the highlight of my life.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
If you’re going into the sales force, be sure that you are going in with the right intentions. If your heart is not in it, you don’t believe in what you’re selling or if you do not see how the experience can be applicable to what you want to do down the line, be wary because you will get worn out sooner than you realize it. Invest in opportunities that will put you in a position to excel in the direction you want to go. Don’t be afraid to pivot or redirect your goals.