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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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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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