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6 Things College Won’t Teach You That Make or Break Your Career

6 Things College Won’t Teach You That Make or Break Your Career

You’ve spent the last four (or more) years in college, taking class after class, final after final, preparing yourself for your first real job in the professional field you wish to pursue as a career. You even managed, despite the still fledgling economy, to snag a job. Great! Good for you. But… what now?

You want to impress your employers and sail through to your first promotion.

Follow these tips to not get in your own way of that happening. These are crucial things you need to apply in your new professional setting that you didn’t learn in college. Your first boss may not even teach you these things, but they will make or break your career. I guarantee it!

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    1. Put your phone away

    Put your phone away when working. Seriously. Just put it away. This means in meetings, at lunches or dinners, at your desk, at any work event or during your work time. Keep your phone on silent and only check it when you take a break.

    Nothing will erode trust in your productivity and professionalism faster than co-workers (or worse, your boss) seeing you constantly on your phone. At work lunches, dinners or social functions your job is to socially engage with your clients or co-workers, not to text your partner or post to Instagram how delish the pricey expense account dinner looks.

    2. Become an expert at conversation with anyone

    You will be put in many different situations in your first real job. You will be exposed to people who have started their own companies, climbed Mount Everest, or graduated from an Ivy League school. You will also be exposed to people who grew up in a trailer park, worked three jobs to pay for college, and scrimped and saved every cent to make it to where they are. Your wildest imagination can’t possibly guess the backgrounds of all the different types of people you will come into contact with.

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    So where do you come in here? Learn how to talk to any and all of them. Make them feel comfortable with you, and like their life story is the most fascinating one you’ve ever heard.

    Be curious. Be open. Ask thoughtful questions focused on them.

    Even if you have nothing in common with them, draw some commonality from books or other conversations you have encountered. For example, I’ve never set foot on an Ivy League campus, but I just read about a research project on Ivy League campuses regarding introverts that I could bring up to tie into their unique background.


    3. Limit Your Drinking at work functions

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      Work functions are not the place to engage in excessive drinking.

      Some work functions include open bars or at least an expectation that you walk around with a drink in your hand. So if you do drink, apply a maximum two drink limit at all work functions. The holiday party, client dinners, networking receptions, any of it. Anything to do with work, follow a two drink maximum.

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      There is nothing impressive about slurring words. The last thing you want to do the next morning is wonder how bad you really were. Just avoid it altogether by being strict in this area.

      There is a time and place to cut loose and let it all hang out. A work function is not the place.

      4. Create connections with a purpose

      Be purposeful and diligent in creating connections with other people, whether they are clients, co-workers or networking contacts.

      Remembering personal facts about anyone is a gold rule in creating trust and openness that leads to connection.

      Did your client mention to you an upcoming vacation cruise? Write it down as a note in their contact information where you keep their phone number. This note will trigger you to recall that tiny tidbit the next time you reach out to call them.

      How good do you think it feels to be remembered for something you just said in passing? Amazing. Your new contact will feel that too when you ask about that cruise they were going on. You just told them without a doubt that they matter to you by this one simple little effort.

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      5. Watch first, commit later

      When you are the newbie, it feels good to get included in social events. Although you may have a tendency to form friendships quickly and jump at the chance to join a social group at work, it’s usually best to take a “wait and see” approach.

      I am not saying decline all invitations, but be careful of forming alliances too soon.

      A work setting is like a family. The dynamics of the group have been formed over a long period of time and many interactions. You just set foot in this unknown environment. You don’t know yet who is loyal and who could be a back stabber, who is a team player and who sloughs the work off on others. Take your time to use your intuition and gauge the situation before you align yourself with anyone in a more permanent way.


      6. Get a jump start on your own life experiences

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        You are just starting out in life and don’t exactly have the funds to travel the world. How can you possibly hold conversations of interest with business contacts that have 20 to 40 years of career and world experience?

        Read.

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        That’s it. Read, read, and read some more. Books can take you anywhere, teach you anything and give you an unending bank of conversational topics to draw from. Maybe you haven’t traveled to Romania, but you’ve read all about the castles there. Maybe you don’t have 20 years of business experience, but you did read the bestselling business book that came out last year.

        Reading will always give you a big advantage in life. Yes, I know when you left college you never wanted to look at another book again. But at least now you get to pick what you read. What if you pick up a book, give it a decent chance and hate it? Never pick it up again. Pick another one. Read only what you love.

        **

        Best of luck submersing yourself in your new and wonderful career! It is a huge transition to change your social sphere from a college crowd of 20-somethings to a group varied and age ranged professionals. Approach each encounter as an opportunity to learn from those with more experience. Show your own special personality. Teach them a thing or two about your generation. You will meet contacts that you want as mentors because you value their leadership greatly. And you will recognize those people that are showing you exactly what not to do for your future.

        Be observant, be yourself, be conscientious and you will go as far as your dreams can imagine!

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        Dawn Hafner

        Dawn is a Practical Life Coach who offers concrete tools to help people implement life changes.

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        Last Updated on October 22, 2019

        How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Get Unstuck

        How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Get Unstuck

        There are plenty of people who successfully made a career change at the age of 40 or above:

        The Duncan Hines cake products you see in the grocery store are a good example. Hines did not write his first food guide until age 55 and he did not license his name for cake mixes until age 73.

        Samuel L. Jackson made a career change and starred alongside John Travolta in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46.

        Ray Kroc was age 59 when he bought his first McDonald’s.

        And Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart at the age of 44.

        I could keep going, but I think you get the point. If you have a sound mind and oxygen in your lungs, you have the ability to successfully make a career change.

        In this article, I’ll look into why making a career change at 40 seems so difficult for you, and how to make the change and get unstuck from your stagnant job.

        What’s Holding You Back from Making a Career Change?

        There are a flood of amazing reasons to make a career change at 40. Heck, you could argue the benefits of making a career change at any age. However, there is something a little different about making a career change at 40.

        When you are 40, you probably have lots of “responsibilities” that come into the decision-making process. What do I mean by responsibilities, you ask?

        Responsibilities tend to be our fears and self-doubt wrapped in a bow of logic and reason. You may say to yourself:

        • I have bills to pay and a family to support. Can I afford the risk associated with a career change?
        • What about the friends I have made over the years? I cannot just abandon them.
        • What if I do not like my career change as much as I thought I would? I could end up miserable and stuck in a worse situation.
        • My new career is so different than what I have been doing, I need additional training and certifications. Can I afford this additional expense and do I have the time recoup my investment?
        • The economy is not the best and there is so much uncertainty surrounding a new career. Maybe it would be better to wait until I retire from this company in 15 years, and then I can start something new.

        If you have experienced any of these thoughts, they will only pacify you for a short period of time. Whether that time is a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years.

        Since you know that you prefer to do something else for a living, you start to feel stagnant in your current position.

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        Your reasons for inaction that used to work are no longer doing the trick. What used to be a small fissure in your dissatisfaction in your current position is now a chasm.

        Ideally, you never stay in a situation until that point, but if you did, there is still hope.

        4 Tips To Change Your Career at 40

        You do not have to feel stagnant in your current role any longer. You can take steps to conquer your fears and self-doubt so you can accomplish your goal of changing your career.

        The challenge of changing your career is not knowing where to begin. That feeling of overwhelm and the fear of uncertainty is what keeps most people from moving forward.

        To help you successfully change your career at the age of 40, follow these four tips.

        1. Value Your Time Above Money

        There is nothing more valuable than your time. You are likely receiving a pay-check or two every month that is replenishing your income. Money is something you can always receive more of.

        When it comes to your time, when it is gone, it is gone. That is why waiting for the perfect situation to make a career change is the wrong mindset to have.

        Realistically, you will never find the perfect situation. There will always be something that could be better or a project you want to finish before you leave.

        By placing your time above money, you will maximize your opportunity to succeed and avoid stagnation.

        If you feel disconnected when you are at work, understand that you are not alone. According to a Gallup Poll, only 32% of U.S. employees said they were actively engaged at work.[1]

        Whether you think your talents are not being properly utilized, the politics of promotion stress you out, or you feel called to do something else with your life; the time to act is now.

        Do not wait until you retire in another 10 to 20 years to make a career change. Put a plan in place to make a career change now. You will thank yourself later.

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        2. Build a Network

        Making a career change is not going to be easy, but that does not mean it is impossible.

        One benefit to being further along in your career is the people you associate with are further along in their career as well.

        Even if most of the people in your immediate network are not in your target industry, you never know the needs of the people with whom they associate.

        A friend of mine recently made a career change and entered the real estate industry. The first thing he did was tell everyone he knew that he was a licensed real estate agent.

        It was not as though he thought everyone he knew was getting ready to sell their home. He wanted to make sure he was in the front of our mind if we spoke to anyone purchasing or selling their home.

        You may have had a similar experience with a financial adviser canvasing the neighborhood. They wanted to let you know they were a local and licensed financial adviser. Whether you or someone you knew was shopping for an adviser, they wanted to make sure you thought of them first.

        The power of your network being further along in their career is they may be the hiring manager or decision-maker.

        You want to let people know you are considering a career move early in the process, so they are thinking of you when the need arises.

        Let me put it to you in the form of a question: When is the best time to let people know you have a snow shoveling business?

        In the summer when there is not a drop of snow on the ground.

        Let them know about your business in the summer. Then ask them if it is okay to keep in touch with them until the need arises. Then you want to spend the entire fall season cultivating and nurturing the relationship. As a result, when the winter comes around, they already know who is going to shovel their snow.

        If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, start throwing out those feelers before the need arises. Then you will be ahead of your competition who waited until the snow fell to start canvasing the neighborhood.

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        Learn about networking here: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

        3. Believe It Is Possible

        One of the greatest mistakes people make when they want to try something new, is they never talk to people living the life they want.

        If you only talk to friends who have not changed their career in 30 years, what kind of advice do you think they will give you? They are going to give you the advice that they live by. If they have spent 30 years in the same career, they most likely feel stability of career is essential to their life.

        In life, your actions often mirror your beliefs. Someone who wants to start a business should not ask for advice from someone who never started one.

        A person who never took the risk of starting a business is most likely risk adverse. Consequently, they are going to speak on the fact that most businesses fail within the first five years.

        Instead, if you talk to someone who is running a business, they will advice you on the difficulties of starting a business. However, they will also share with you how they overcame those difficulties, as well as the benefits of being a business owner.

        If you want to overcome your fears and self-doubt associated with changing your career at 40, you are going to need to talk to people who have successfully managed a career change.

        They are going to provide you a realistic perspective on the difficulties surrounding the endeavor, but they are also going to help you believe it is possible.

        Studies show the sources of your beliefs include,[2]

        “environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs.”

        By choosing to absorb the successes of others, you are choosing to believe you can change your career at 40. On the other hand, if you absorb the fears and doubts of others, you have chosen to succumb to your own fears and self-doubt.

        4. Put Yourself Out There

        You are most likely going to have to leave your comfort zone to make a career change at 40.

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        Reason-being, your comfort zone is built on the experiences you have lived thus far. So that means your current career is in your comfort zone.

        Even though you may be feeling stagnant and unproductive in your career, it is still your comfort zone. This helps explain why so many people are unwilling to pursue a career change.

        If you want to improve your prospects of launching your new career, you are going to need to attend industry events.

        Whether these events are local or a large conference that everyone attends, you want to make it a priority to go. Ideally you want to start with local events because they may be a more intimate setting.

        Many of these events have a professional development component where you can see what skill-sets, certification, and education people are looking for. Here you can find 17 best careers worth going back to school for at 40.

        You can almost survey the group and build your plan of action according to the responses you receive.

        The bonus of exposure to your new industry is you may find yourself getting lucky (when opportunity meets preparation) and creating a valuable relationship or landing an interview.

        Final Thoughts

        Whatever the reason, if you want to change your career, you owe it to yourself to do so. You have valuable in-sight from your current career that can help you position yourself above others.

        Start sharing your story and desire to change your career today. Attend industry events and build a mindset of belief. You have everything you need to accomplish your goal, you only need to take action.

        More About Career Change

        Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/HY-Nr7GQs3k via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] News Gallup: Employee Engagement In US, Stagnant In 2015
        [2] Indian J Psychiatry: The Biochemistry Of Belief

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