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The Worst Career Advice This Happiness Expert Ever Received—and How It Helped Her

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Jenn Lim's career path to becoming cofounder and CEO of Delivering Happiness, an organizational consultancy that helps global businesses build happier workplaces, wasn't exactly straightforward.

Lim graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Asian American studies just as the internet revolution was sweeping Silicon Valley. She landed a job as a consultant for internet strategy with the firm KPMG and admits to facing a steep learning curve.

"Back in the day, the internet was just being born," Lim, now 47, tells CNBC Make It. "I didn't even know what it meant to be a consultant for internet strategy. I just had to stay one page ahead of the book in what was going on there."

As she was getting started in her job, she recalls a discussion with a senior manager where she received what she considers "the worst career advice" she's ever heard.

As Lim tells it, the senior manager pressed her, an entry-level professional in her first post-college job, about what she wanted to focus on. He asked, "What are you going to be an expert on?"

The question felt misguided, Lim says: "I was like, what do you mean? I just started here, and the world is changing a lot." Still, he stressed that she needed an expertise and to "really hone that skill set and just keep working, working, working on that so you'll be known to be this specialized person."

"And that, to me, was the worst advice, and I went in exactly the opposite direction," Lim continues. "I became more of this generalist in wanting to understand and learn, because by learning and doing things that I didn't like to do, I then knew better what I wanted to do for the long-term."

Lim says understanding that her career didn't have to be linear gave her room to try out things that weren't in her comfort zone, and ultimately find what she enjoyed most in her work.

Lim thinks being hyper-focused on one expertise can be a bad thing, especially for those starting off in their careers. Instead, she recommends people approach their work with a growth mindset.

With a growth mindset, and openness to learning from mistakes, she says, "then you actually get to the true sense of who you are as an individual, grounded in your purpose and values, and what you want to do in life."

Check out:

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