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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 October 16, 2019

How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

Whether you saw it coming or not, getting fired is a real shock and its impact is daunting. What did you do wrong? What are you supposed to do next? When will you stop feeling so angry?

But there are ways to deal with a layoff.

The most important thing is to remain calm and see it as an opportunity to reflect, change and improve. This is a great time to consider what happened, look again at your needs and desires and start afresh on a stronger, more constructive basis.

Let’s take a look at how you can bounce back gracefully after getting fired.

1. Deal with the Shock of Getting Fired

To lose your job is to lose your identity as a worker and as a person. Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, states that 7 out of 10 of us define ourselves by our job titles, since work is where we spend the majority of our time and energy.

Being laid off affronts your sense of self-worth—it implies that you simply are not good enough. It’s no wonder you feel confused and emotional.

The first thing, then, is to take some time to digest what happened and deal with the overflow of sensations. People who quickly recover from the pain of a job loss tend to do two things very well:

First, they accept their feelings of sadness, anger, fear and shame as a part of the natural healing process.

Second, they do their complaining to a friend.

Never call out your boss in the office or on social media. It’s a bad form to speak ill of the company you work for. Stay stylish, and your employer will speak better of you when you need a reference.

2. Stay Away from the Drama Queens

Mass layoffs are, unfortunately, very common. If this is your situation, then you may be surrounded by a lot of angry people, ruminating and lamenting their fate.

“It’s not fair!” they say. “After everything we did for this company! We don’t deserve this!”

You’ve lost your job and that’s tough. But please resist the urge to join in the negativity. Positivity is by far the most important attitude to apply right now. If staying upbeat means you have to limit your exposure to the Negative Nellies, then that’s what you have to do.

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Remember, life is not harder for you than it is for other people on this planet. You live in a democracy, you have freedom of choice and you enjoy a certain material abundance.

Stay positive and focus on what’s going well in your life and the exciting future opportunities available to you. Getting fired is only a temporary setback.

Staying positing could be challenging in a difficult situation, so these tips can help:

10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

3. Take a Break and Let the Dust Settle

Instead of running straight into another job that may not be the right one either, take a short break to recover from the job loss. You need a week or two to de-stress and meditate on the next step.

Be attentive to your need for self-care during this interlude. Everything goes so fast these days that we often do not stop to think or give ourselves the permission to do a little mourning.

Getting fired is a big shock: you need time to refocus and take stock of the new reality. Do not make things harder for yourself!

What you need is to pause a while and do some self reflection:

How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

4. Be Anchored in the Present

Since you no longer have a hold on the past, but have not yet designed your future, try to build yourself up with the present. What do we mean by that?

We mean that right now is the only time you have any control over. Focus on that instead of losing yourself in memories or reliving the awful day you got fired over and over in your head.

Get up at 7 a.m. each day, whatever happens. The body needs rhythm and habits. You will feel much more energized if you keep a consistent routine. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, revisit your budget, play sports, volunteer. Take care of the practical stuff like claiming unemployment. Enjoy the small pleasures of everyday life.

When you’re busy, there’s no room for the inner critic to raise up and derail you. Keep active, and you will gain more of the precious energy you need so much to move forward.

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Try these things to help you live in the moment:

34 Ways To Live in the Moment And Grow in the Moment

5. Understand the “Why”

There are lots of reasons why people are fired. Sometimes the mistake is yours and it’s embarrassing to admit you backed yourself into this corner.

Other times, it’s not your fault. Businesses change direction all the time—maybe yours is going through a major transition or merger and your job is disappearing.

Either way, to give the situation some closure, you need to understand why you were dismissed. What slipped? What could you have done differently? Was your boss really out to get you or did you do something to put your job in jeopardy?

Be honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit that you might have dropped the ball but it’s the only way to turn the situation into a learning experience. Ask yourself:

What skills do you need to improve?

Is there training you can access, or learning you can do?

In the end, did this job suit you that much? Were you happy there?

Reflecting on these questions can help you put things into perspective. What lessons can you learn to avoid reproducing the same pattern in your next job?

6. Find out If You Were the Right Fit

Hiring decisions ultimately come down to personality. You can study for an interview all you like, but every candidate who is chosen for interview has the right credentials for the job.

The final decision comes down to personality. Who does the recruiter like the best? Who is a better fit for the company culture? That’s the person who strikes it lucky.

Firing decisions are based on personality, too. Slacking off, insubordination and playing fast and loose with the company rules—these are the official reasons why people are getting fired.

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But all of these reasons boil down to one thing: personality. Specifically, they signal a personality clash between an employee and a manager, or an employee’s fit with the company’s culture.

Here’s an example:

Suppose you were fired for “not being a team player.” Some people, namely introverts, lose energy when they are surrounded by other people and gain energy when they are on their own. Forcing an introvert to continuously work on a busy, noisy team without any solitary rest periods means the job is a mission impossible. This employee will never perform at her best.

Or how about the time the Kansas City Star newspaper fired Walt Disney for a perceived lack of imagination? Talk about a clash of personalities![1]

Getting fired can be a signal to turn inward and do some self-reflection so you can better understand your personality and how it might fit in with corporate culture.

In particular, personality assessments based on Isabel Briggs Myers’ sixteen personality types can help you to understand your own work style and how you can find a job and workplace that better match who you truly are.

In many cases, it is totally liberating to realize that all the crap you had to deal with was just down to a clash of work styles and not something you did wrong!

7. Rediscover Your Strengths and Talents

A personality test can also give you clear insights into your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and work potential. Do you have leadership abilities? How do you communicate and manage conflict? What benefits do you add to an organization?

Identifying your working style should be your top priority right now, otherwise you risk accepting a new position that has all the same problems as before. The last thing you want is to reproduce the same old dramas the next time around.

When you become aware of your potential, you will have the confidence to search and find the type of work you love.

For example, getting fired from your banking job may have knocked you sideways. But you have some stellar home decorating skills, and a personality test shows that you are curious, flexible, rational and resilient—all the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Maybe this dismissal is an opportunity to launch the business you’ve always dreamed of but never dared to admit to yourself?

By considering all your special skills and talents, you increase your chances of finding a job you would really enjoy, and not just the one you can do.

8. Get the Word Out

At this point, you should be ready to take action and move forward with your job search. Let’s not sugarcoat the situation: getting a new job is tough. It helps to have a clear idea of the direction you want to go in, a list of all your crossover skills and a freshly polished resume.

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Look around for inspiration. Talk to recruiters in your sector to establish what they consider to be your most valuable skills. Use all the resources at your disposal: job search agencies, headhunters, work coaches, careers websites and so on. These resources can help you match your qualifications to the job requirements and ensure you have the right keywords on your resume.

Don’t hold back on marshaling your networks. Put friends and family to work to pop up leads, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Sometimes the simple act of getting the word out to the people who know you is the surest way to find work fast.

9. Anticipate Questions and Know How to Answer Them

Even if it wasn’t your fault, getting fired can hurt you if you don’t know how to explain why you were let go. You have to be honest here and tell recruiters the truth. Even if a would-be employer does not specifically ask why you left your previous job, it is better to clarify the situation upfront before it comes out in your references.

The best approach is to take your share of responsibility and show that you want to go forward and that you understand the lesson.

For example, suppose you got fired for asking the difficult questions that no one wanted to answer and your candidness set people on edge. Acknowledge that some people perceive your communication style as abrupt and explain how you’re taking steps to increase your diplomacy skills.

A recruiter can be seduced by someone who knows how to evolve and who shows a great energy for personal development.

10. Adapt and Persist

Throughout this journey, you inevitably will go through moments of self-doubt and disappointment. There are undulations in every road, and these are the normal steps for regaining self-confidence after getting fired.

Stay tough! Don’t conclude that your future is hopeless just because the dream job doesn’t land straightaway. You open a positive path when you maintain focus. Have the confidence to know that the perfect job for you is out there.

Remember, you are not alone. Many people walked this road and they would urge you to keep the momentum. Stay open-minded and go where the opportunities take you: it will bring you closer to the job you really want.

Coming Out on Top

While getting fired isn’t the ideal situation, it isn’t the end of the world either. Even if feels like a doozy right now, you will get through it and emerge happier on the other side.

Be clear on what you want, have courage and believe in yourself. In the end, you may decide that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to you. It can be the catalyst for a powerful, career-fulfilling change.

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Featured photo credit: Jesus Kiteque via unsplash.com

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