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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 September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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