After reading some of the entries in the popular #IfIWere22 LinkedIn series, I was inspired to think about what I would tell my younger self. Hindsight is 20/20, right? So here I go…
6 Snippets of Career Advice I’d Give to My Younger Self
Don’t let yourself be used. Yes, it pays to be a hard worker and to chip in where you can. Some of your best opportunities may come from projects outside of your ‘job description.’ Yet, it’s not helpful to willingly work 70-80 hours a week and become a catch can for the company while others maintain an actual work-life balance. There’s nothing in the Ten Commandments about burning out before you’re 25 and routinely doing other peoples’ jobs for them.
This point also refers to regularly ‘covering’ for co-workers or even your boss while they’re sleeping in, out socializing or living their life. In group environments, you’ll always have people riding others’ coattails. Sometimes, these people promise ‘exposure,’ promotions, even raises. Unfortunately, these are often empty promises.
Start networking now! Your professional network can be a big boost to your career, but it’s up to you to build and maintain it. I’m not just talking about collecting business cards or adding connections on LinkedIn (although that’s a great place to be!). Get to know professionals in your industry, offer your help when appropriate and pick their brain. Remember to give twice as much (of your time, talents, etc.) than you receive.
Speak up. You may be the low man (or woman) on the totem pole, but don’t hesitate to chime in when appropriate. If your boss asks your opinion, speak up. As a newbie to a company or situation, you can offer a fresh perspective that veterans cannot. Besides, the simplest solution is often the best, and others may be over-thinking the project. Your superiors will notice when you routinely offer valuable insight and fresh ideas.
Learn from every opportunity. You were excited to land an internship at a great company but all you’re doing is picking up coffee, making runs to the mail room and updating endless spreadsheets. First, do whatever tasks you’re assigned to the best of your ability — even making coffee runs. If you can’t handle the routine, why would anyone give you more responsibility? Look for opportunities to improve the situation — save the company money, enhance a report or bring efficiency where you can. If your supervisor doesn’t notice, bring it up (appropriately of course). Then, ask for more. Let your boss know that you’d love to sit in the next brainstorming session or be involved in a conference strategy session, and offer your help — to take notes, order lunch, etc. It may just be that the powers to be have so much going on that they don’t realize you’re being shut out. (This applies to seemingly non-related jobs and experiences as well. You’d be surprised what you can learn from working at Walmart or helping your youth group.)
Try new things! You’re young, so it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life. This is where talking to other professionals, shadowing them and volunteering for opportunities will help. For example, volunteering at an American Diabetes Association walk may show you a love for event planning or participating in student government could spark an interest in public service. The more you experience, the more confident you’ll feel in your chosen career path. Change your mind at your first career stop? No big deal. Keep looking for what you want to do and avenues you can take to get there.
Don’t burn bridges. It may be tempting to walk out of a job on the spot or tell that professor what you really think of his teaching, but it’s probably a bad idea. We’re a mobile society today, so you never know where or when you’ll run into someone again. That professor? He may be a consultant for a company you apply at. Your internship supervisor? It turns out his brother-in-law works in HR at your dream company. It’s amazing how small the world turns out to be. So try to act professional until the end, even if that means graciously leaving an opportunity before you explode.
What’s your advice?
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Is there a decision you made when you were younger that you love or regret?
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
p.s. Entering the workforce? Changing careers? CCC can help you with a number of personal branding needs, including resumes, cover letters and social media profiles/usage. Learn more or contact us to discuss your needs today!
Older and wiser,