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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 28, 2020

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

As someone who has been in recruiting for over 10 years I can tell you the interview is vitally important to getting that new job you really want. During the interview process, there will most likely be at least 2 interviews, a phone interview and an in person interview. Both are important.

Companies can of course have different interviewing processes but in general, there is at least one phone interview, also known as a phone screen, and a live, in-person interview. The in-person interview can be with one person or it might be with a variety of people. While they are both important, the live interview is typically the one that will make or break you as a candidate for the position you are interviewing for.

Many of the interview questions we will review here will more likely come up during the live interview. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for them on the phone interview as well.

To illustrate how important the live interview is, I’ll tell you about my search that happened a year ago. I’d decided it was time to move on from the role I’d been in for a little over 6 years. As I started researching and looking for a new opportunity, I began down the path with 2 companies. With the one I landed with, I’d had 3 separate phone screens, each one an hour long. They must have thought they went well because I was asked to fly to the city where the corporate office is at and do an in-person interview. — with 8 people.

Yeah, it was a long day. The good news is I rocked the interviews across the board. I flew home that evening and the following day, I received a call with the job offer. That was less than 24 hours after I’d had the in person interview. This is how important the live interview is.

So how to ace an interview? We can dive right in to helping you nail the 10 most tricky interview questions:

1. What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

This is a personal favorite of mine. The primary reason for this question is not to actually find out what your biggest weakness is. Unless of course, you say something like “showing up to work on a regular basis,” then it’s probably going to get you kicked out of consideration for the role.

The main reason for someone asking you this question is to see if you are self-aware. That is if you know your weaknesses and are smart enough to account for them.

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The smart play here is to answer in a modest way. You want to be able to show that your biggest weakness actually has an upside. For instance, I usually say that mine is impatience. Which is true, I like to get things done. But what I ensure what I point out is that even though I am impatient, it’s because I like to crank and get a lot of work done.

2. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Interestingly enough, a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question. It’s designed to find out if you’ve actually done research on the company and if you are excited about this position.

When I ask this question, many people have told me something like “because it looks like a good opportunity”. I mean, can you be any more generic?

The key to answering this is to show you’ve done research on the company and that you are enthusiastic about the actual position. Companies want people that are excited to work there, not just someone that shows up for a paycheck.

3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Employers are asking you this question to see if you have somewhat of a plan for your career. It doesn’t have to be completely mapped out in a step by step manner but, a general overall plan is good to see. It means you are goal oriented and are working towards something.

Don’t worry about answering in a way that states you are planning on sticking with the company until you retire. Rather, focus more on how it’s important to you to continue to learn and get better and better at what you do. Companies like to hire self-motivated people.

4. Tell Me About a Time You Messed Up

Or tell me about a time something didn’t work out the way you planned. Similar in concept. The key here is to show that you take accountability for your actions and how you react to things going wrong.

Companies like to see that you are willing to accept responsibility for the things you oversee and own up when you are wrong. People that always find a way to blame their missteps on other people or circumstances typically don’t make good team mates.

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The other component here is things don’t always go as planned, how good are you at adapting and thinking on your feet.

5. Why Are You Looking to Leave Your Current Job?

This may seem like a place to launch into all the things you don’t like about your current job. Or to talk about what a terrible person your boss is. Don’t do it. That’s the path you do not want to go down. And that’s really what this question tends to prod out of many people.

If I am interviewing you and ask this question and you tell me all the ways your boss doesn’t appreciate you and your company has terrible leadership, I’m thinking what you’re going to be saying about me in a year when you are interviewing somewhere else.

Make sure you are framing your answer in a way that doesn’t shed bad light on your current or most recent employer. You want to focus on things like you’ve enjoyed working for the company but your growth options are limited there so you are exploring outside opportunities.

6. How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?

This question gives you the opportunity to show off your strengths and what your boss appreciates about what you bring to the table. You want to focus on the positive traits that your boss likes and how it helps you in your role.

What you do not want to do is sprinkle in the things your boss doesn’t think as highly of. Don’t say something like my boss would describe me as a focused worker, at least on the days I make it into the office.

7. Tell Me About a Time You Overcame an Obstacle

Another one of my favorite questions. Interviewers ask this question to see if you are able to deal with roadblocks.

Things don’t always go smoothly, so having people on the team who are able to solve problems has huge upside.

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Being able to overcome obstacles is a great trait to have. Make sure you have a few stories about how something didn’t go as planned that caused a challenge and how you were involved in solving the problem. It’s a way of turning a bad situation into a good one.

8. Why Should We Hire You?

If you are at the point of a live interview, you should be highly interested in the position.

By this point, you should have a pretty clear picture of what the role is and how your skills and experience will help you succeed. The reason this question is being asked is to see if you are the right candidate for this role.

This gives you a great opportunity to tell your interviewer how your expertise will positively impact the role. Right now, you are in the spotlight to clearly show that your experience is the perfect fit for the position and why. Shine on!

9. What’s Your Greatest Achievement?

Employers tend to ask this question to gain an understanding of what your big wins were. What are the really impactful things that have happened during your career and how you were the reason why they happened.

This is another great opportunity for you to toot your own horn. What you want to be conscious of is how you tell the story about your biggest achievement. You want to make sure you say why it was such a big achievement.

If possible, it’s always good to include your team as part of the big win. Employers love to hire people who can make things happen but, it’s also important they understand the importance of team work.

10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

You might be asking yourself why this is a tricky question. Honestly, it’s not a tricky question if you are prepared for it.

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What the interviewer is looking for here is how interested and excited you are for the position. You’d be surprised at how many people answer this question with a blank stare or have no questions prepared.

Again, if you are at a live interview, you should be highly interested in a position and the company. You will convey how interested you are in the opportunity with some well thought out questions to ask.

You don’t want to just ask one question like “How often is payday”? Have at least 4 to 5 questions prepared but don’t overwhelm your interviewer with dozens and dozens of questions. Show that you’ve given some serious thought to this position by coming prepared with solid questions to ask.

The Bottom Line

There you go, insight to nailing the 10 most tricky questions during the interview process. There are, of course, many other questions you might get asked during the interview process but, these tend to be the ones that trip most people up.

Remember to take your time and thoroughly prepare for the interview. You don’t have to memorize your answers or anything but having a good idea of how you’d answer these questions will help you ace the next interview.

Here’s to being career advancement ready!

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Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

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