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11 Pieces of Career Advice You Wish Your Younger Self Knew

11 Pieces of Career Advice You Wish Your Younger Self Knew

Hindsight is 20/20.  As a Career Advisor, I have the opportunity to talk to college students and help them avoid the mistakes my colleagues and I made in our careers.  Don’t misunderstand me, we love what we do, but because of what we know we all would have done one or two things differently and we all would love to share these insights with our younger selves.  Here are 10 Pieces of Career Advice You Wish Your Younger Self Knew:

1. Do NOT follow your passion

I know, I know, this is exactly the opposite of what everyone tells themselves, their friends, their children, and if you have any regret about your career you blame the fact that you didn’t follow your passion.  My advice, follow what you are good at, even if it is not something you are passionate about.  Employers pay people who do their jobs well, so well in fact that they begin to create better ways to do their job which is called innovation.

Cal Newport, an Assistant Profession of Computer Science at Georgetown University, wrote a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You.  The premise of the book is to NOT follow your passion, you can follow your interests he says and they may lead to passion, but true passion grows out of being really really good at something.  Don’t believe me?  Check out number 8 in the link below and read about Steve Jobs in Newport’s book.

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Steve Jobs was passionate about Zen Buddhism, even wanting to become a monk BEFORE he got into technology. Technology is what he did to make money, small amounts of money at first.  What he discovered was he was good at raising money for his technology ideas. Apple came to be because Steve Jobs was good at seeing opportunities in technology and raising money. Zen Buddhism was the passion he didn’t follow for a career.  What about all those speeches he gave about following your passion you ask?  He had passion for technology, but it grew out of being really good.

2. Start building career skills as early as possible

Were all those college parties you attended really that different that you couldn’t miss a few to schedule early classes a few days a week so you could have an internship in the afternoon?  Did your college degree match what career you went into very well at all?  The advise we give students at the career center is by spring of Sophomore year you should have an internship.  There are many reasons for this, the first being that this gives a student time to do more than one. The reason for doing more than one internship is first, you may discover you hate doing what you thought your dream job would be and you now have time figure something else out and secondly you may need to develop other skills from another company or position.

3. Weigh the career growth opportunity carefully

When you look back at your career, do the positions you have held build on each other?  Did each position grow your skill set to make you a more valuable employee?  When looking at career options for a first job look at the industry and ask yourself some questions.  Is it a growing industry?  Does the job I am applying for have a clear career path?  Is there a clear career path in the industry?  Is this job going to begin to build a skill set for me in something I am interested in?  Is the answer to those questions is yes then you will end up with a fulfilling career.

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4. Move to where the opportunities are

Looking at your life now how mobile are you?  If you are in your forties probably not very.  Are you married?  Do you have children?  How easy would it be to pick up and move for a job?  Your younger self has none of that baggage.  I am not saying a family is a bad thing, for someone who is established.  At 22 or 23 years of age right out of college when you are building a career you need to go where there are the best opportunities.  If you love the city you currently live in, then choose a company that has a presence there, or an industry.  You can always move back in five years maybe running the region or at a competitor making great money and very satisfied in your career because you went where the best opportunity was and built a great skill set.

5. Start saving your pay as soon as possible

Human resource departments and financial advisors always give the same example about starting a retirement plan as soon as possible.  Putting money in a retirement plan in your 20’s or 30’s grows much more quickly than in your 40’s. Many companies will match the funds you put into your retirement account and the matched funds usually vest after five years, meaning if you leave you can take the whole balance with you and not just what you put into the retirement account.  If you start saving immediately you will have a pretty decent dollar amount in five years.

6.  Job-hop thoughtfully, not recklessly

This goes back to building a career.  Did the jobs you take build on each other giving you more skills and making you more valuable or were they random and had nothing to do with each other.  Were you strategic and purposeful about your decisions or did you not think ahead.  Being strategic and purposeful is the difference between having a career and just getting a job.

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7. Follow your gut is okay

There is literally a network of neurons lining our intestines that interacts with our brains called the enteric nervous system.  You can feel emotion in your gut and if you have a good or uneasy feeling about a situation you should not ignore it.

8. Never sell yourself short

John Barrymore the actor was quoted as saying, “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”  Dream big!  However, make sure you have a well defined path on how to achieve that dream.  If you want to be an astronaut, start looking at what type of education is needed.  In high school keep your grades up and apply to colleges that are well respected for that course of study.  Intern at NASA and be prepared to move where the job opportunities are.  Never sell yourself short applies to salary too.  Know what you are worth.  Talk to people in the industry you want to enter to find out what entry level jobs pay. That way when you are made an offer you know it is a fair one.

9. Acknowledge when it’s not a good career match

This is especially important for sales jobs.  Sales people can be the best paid most respected employees at a company.  They can also be the least paid (100% commission not closing any deals) and most quickly to be let go.  Sales is a profession like any other profession that requires a skill set.  Managing people takes a certain personality.  If you make a wrong turn during your career and you realize you are being demoted or taking jobs that paid less than the one before course correct quickly.  Every bad fit in a job effects your self-esteem, clouds your mind and makes you less valuable.

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10. Don’t force yourself into a bad career move

If you are doing everything right, like building skills and you are a good fit for your position the promotions or opportunities will come to you.  I know Financial Advisers and Sales People who have never truly looked for a job.  They were either approached internally or externally for jobs because of their connections and success.  They were recruited, and when you are recruited you don’t interview, in fact, you are usually given a sighing bonus.

11. Define your own success, it doesn’t always come from money (satisfaction/dreams/life goals)

Happiness is what we are all trying to accomplish.  People are motivated by different things, but don’t mistake motivation for satisfaction.  There are a lot of very unsatisfied rich people. They have different stresses than many because money is not their issue, but are they lonely from being “married” to their job?  Your success goes back to not following your passion.  Get good at your job, become valuable and build a career.  You will be satisfied and passionate about what you do.

 

Featured photo credit: Big 20th Century Fox via fogsmoviereviews.com

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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