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Career Advice From My Younger Self

Career Advice From My Younger Self

Although growing up sometimes means defining a career, earning more responsibility, and hopefully more money, does it have to also mean losing the enjoyment of pleasures once appreciated? Year after year, I find myself caring more for the paycheck at the end of the week, retirement fund, and health insurance more than I do other things. Of course, I can still say with confidence that I’m a quite happy person and thoroughly adore my life. However, the meaning of a job and work, a place that I spend a majority of my time, doesn’t really mean to me what it once did. Even though changing jobs frequently and working for almost nothing isn’t a viable option outside of high school and college, I feel that revisiting the struggle of this time could be incredibly enlightening. Let’s imagine this, if my younger self could give my current self some career and life advice, what would I say?

You Aren’t Your Work

My younger self would definitely say this because during a majority of my late teens and early twenties I was working as a barista, day care employee, and customer service rep. While I did learn quite the array of crucial life skills throughout my employ at these miscellaneous jobs, I always understood that the job was separate from my home life. This is something that is much harder for me to comprehend at this time. I tend to take work home with me, not only physically, but mainly emotionally. Since I can now envision my line of work leading to a career, I tend to take it much more seriously.

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So, what would my younger self have to say about that? I think she would say, “You deserve to enjoy time to yourself”. Making a good impression at work doesn’t have to mean stressing so much or working harder than you should. Do outstanding work while you’re at work. This way you don’t have to worry at home if you did every little thing that there was to do. I never doubted my work ethic for a second in my younger years. I know I do excellent work now, so why is today different?

She would also scoff at the fact that I tend to wear my emotions from the day on my sleeve. I can’t recall a time in my past when I came home from a long day at the office (meaning coffee shop) and took my bad day out on anyone else. My younger self would laugh at me for being so “adult”. “It’s just a job”, she would say, “family and friends and fun are what is important”. In other words, “Live life (not work) you dummy”.

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Meet New People

One of the best things about working a ton of starter jobs early on was meeting new people and making a lot of friends. Getting the chance to hang out with people that you might not have been able to otherwise is really a special thing. Once a career is built, so to speak, a chance for stagnancy comes alive. Doing the same thing after work each day or always hanging out with the same people can become the norm. Chances are that some people from your past just didn’t align with where you are anymore.There is no rule that says people aren’t allowed to keep making friends their entire life. There also isn’t a rule (or shouldn’t be) about where you can make new friends.

I’m to go out on a limb and say that I’m more anti-social now than I have ever been. I know that in my teens and twenties I was much more shy and unopinionated, but I made friends like crazy. Now, I’m not afraid to speak my mind and I know what I want (for dinner, in a partner, with this part of my life…mostly). However, I don’t know how to speak to people at all. Even if I am friendly with people at work or elsewhere it is so much harder for me to say the words, “Hey do you wanna hangout?” Back then, I know for a fact, it wasn’t this difficult. I didn’t judge others so harshly. I didn’t try to figure out if someone might fit my life perfectly before even trying to befriend them.

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Forget About the Paycheck

When I was the most broke that I have ever been, I was totally fine with it. I knew that I was going to have to live with the fact that I had no money and that’s just the way that it was. Nowadays, I get anxiety if I don’t have my usual safety blanket of benjamins keeping me warm. Even though this was rough from time to time, it always seemed to work out. I’m absolutely not saying, “throw abandon to the wind and burn all your cash” because that’s just idiotic. What I am saying instead is to just find pleasure by other means. That old cheesy saying, “money doesn’t buy happiness” is ruthlessly true.

Without a doubt, the best moments in my life come from enjoying what I am doing and spending time with the people I really want in my life. Even if your job isn’t exactly a picturesque dream, finding joy in a career that you are masterful at should be more of a focus than anything else. Working to get to the end of the day or the paycheck at the end of the week is just not a way to live. Unfortunately, I find myself just mentally waiting for the end of the day from time to time. Again, I know that I am a hard worker. So, for me I should really be bragging to myself about the great work I got accomplished this day or week. Even though that might sound pretty lame, just think of it this way, every awesome thing that you accomplish can be added to your resume of life.

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If at the end of each day your only accomplishment is the money that was made or the idea of how to get to the next dollar, so be it. Although, consider this; a majority of our time spent each day (and realistically our lives) is spent in the office.

In conclusion, my younger self wouldn’t want me to be sitting at home alone, saving up money for nothing. My younger self would want me to do something – anything rewarding, have enough money to eat, enjoy good company, meet new people, and never think that I’ve got it all figured out.

Featured photo credit: Valles Barnepass i Hemsedal Skisenter/SkiStar via flickr.com

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Published on October 8, 2019

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

1. Define What Success Is for You

There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

7. Pick Up Some New Skills

Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

9. Make Yourself Indispensable

Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

10. Get Off the Fence

People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

18. Join a Professional Organization

The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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