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Career Strategies I Wish I Knew Earlier In My 20s

Career Strategies I Wish I Knew Earlier In My 20s

My 20’s – evokes memories of fun, excitement, many firsts such as the first real job, getting engaged, first home and many others. A time full of hope and ambition and at times directionless decision making! The time when I followed the herd and made career decisions based on what other’s were doing and what was ‘expected’ of me rather than what truly made sense to me!

In hindsight, I’ve learnt the hard way and wish I had known the following in my 20’s!

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1. Stability And Guaranteed Income May Matter, It Pales In Comparison To Finding Professional Fulfillment

At the time and place I grew in, it was a given that we youngsters would choose either an engineering or a medical profession. The focus was more on long term stability and guaranteed income as provided by these professions. Therefore by default, the majority of us chose our educational degrees to align to those careers.

What I’ve now learnt is, as much as stability and guaranteed income may matter, it pales in comparison to finding professional fulfillment. More than 70% of the workforce today is burnt out and unhappy with their jobs. As a career coach, I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of unhappy people. In most cases, it turns out that their unhappiness is due to misaligned priorities. We spend a significant amount of our waking time at work. Therefore, the focus should be on feeling happy and fulfilled at work and not on chasing fancy titles and the money. Luckily enough, when our priorities are right, those fancy titles and monetary benefits do fall in place too!!

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2. When We Are Interested In Something, We Do A Much Better Job At It Than When We Are Not

In our 20’s some of us sideline our interests. We believe that our interests in art or music or anything else is just an interest and should be pursued as a hobby. And we need to get a real job to sustain ourselves.

What I’ve learnt is that our interests are our portal to finding fulfilling work. When we are interested in something, we do a much better job at it than when we are not. We put our best foot forward. We feel good about doing something that interests us. The key is not to be married to the idea of sustaining ourselves through our exact interest. So for example: if you are keenly interested in music and are a decent singer as well, becoming a sought-after singer is not your ONLY choice! Instead you have various other career choices in the music industry! Most people often forget this and completely give up on their area of interest and then find themselves in unfulfilling jobs.

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3. I Thought My Career Would Progress Naturally

When I picked an engineering degree to pursue and landed my first job as an IT professional, the assumed path was to progress through the traditional ladder – analyst, manager, Sr.manager, director, VP and so on. I never spoke to anyone at those levels or for that matter even to anyone at the entry level position I had landed in! I had no plan or goal as such and assumed my career would progress naturally.

What I’ve learnt is – it is important to plan our careers. Having something to strive towards, helps us seek guidance and direction and create a path for us to tread on. Of course, our plans may never materialize at times or we may change our direction as we gain more clarity. That is perfectly fine and expected. When you reach that juncture in your journey, change your destination and create a new plan to get your there!

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4. Never Settle In Bad Workplaces And Bad Bosses. Take A Leap Of Faith And Move Out Of There.

In my 20’s I accepted situations without questioning it. If I was subject to unfair treatment at work, I felt bad about it but never questioned it. When my boss remarked that I was taking a half-day when I left work at 5.30 PM having arrived at 8 AM, I accepted it. When an earlier job required me to travel extensively to unsafe locations, I accepted it. I convinced myself those are my best options and that there is nothing better out there for me. I ignored those warning signs at first, that told me to RUN from those places and bosses. But once I did it, I realized the umpteen options that were out there!

What I’ve learnt now is to never settle in bad workplaces and bad bosses. Take a leap of faith and move out of there. To put it simply, it is just not worth your time! and progression does not necessarily happen in these situations.

5. Complacency Is Our Worst Enemy

In my 20’s, I did not meet many game-changers or people who had broken societal norms and created their own paths. In my myopic view of the world, I happily accepted that you get a job in a standard industry and stayed there forever. I assumed that complacency is the way to go as was evident all around me.

What I’ve learnt is to be a rule-breaker! Always challenge yourself and seek out game-changers, if you believe you are not one. Learn from them and see how they challenge the status quo in their careers. Complacency is our worst enemy.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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