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8 Pieces of Advice Every Young Professional Should Be Told

8 Pieces of Advice Every Young Professional Should Be Told

Everybody has heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder,” but isn’t it hard work just thinking about ways to be smarter? The following eight pieces of professional advice will serve to inspire or revolutionize your strategies for success, as they have done for mine.

1. Find a person who has the life or job you want.

Purely as a result of their own ego, this person will tell you all about how they got where they are, and how you can too. Even if this is a person you don’t know that well, drop them an email to ask if you can buy them a coffee and talk about their job. I did this three times while working in banking; bankers aren’t known for their generosity, but they are known for their ego, and what does any successful ego love more than talking about itself? I’ve also done this several times since leaving finance to go into my dream career, medicine. (Another benefit of this is they always insist on buying the coffee anyway.)

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2. Develop an interesting and relevant skill that isn’t a prerequisite.

Everybody who is worthy of being called your competition has the necessary skills and experience for the job you want. Just like driving through a city at rush hour, if you try to beat everyone else on what is normally the proper, most efficient route to work, you will arrive later than if you took the slightly inconvenient back roads with less traffic. The same goes for the skills market: you need to be good at the prerequisite skills, but if you only put your energy into those, you might find the traffic on that route overwhelming when you try to stand out. Develop a niche skill that is desirable but not something the competition has to have. It will make you more interesting and more useful.

3. Get a mentor.

Ideally this would be somebody senior within your company, but really it can be anybody more experienced than you in your industry: someone who is respected and who has influence. Again, if you appeal to this person’s ego and/or generous side, you will have somebody you can send hundreds of career-related questions to. They will also become incredibly useful when you need somebody to vouch for you.

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4. Realign your day-to-day efforts with the expectations you have for your future.

If you picture yourself achieving something impressive one day, then ask yourself: “Am I doing anything that is impressive right now?” If the answer is no, then you need to pick up your game. You can’t plod along in the middle of the pack if one day you hope to lead it. What are you already doing today to set yourself apart from your peers?

5. Make a five-year plan.

This isn’t just to help you figure out where you want to be in five years’ time; most importantly it is a detailed plan of how you’re going to get there. Start with where you want to be in five years and then work back, step-by-step, including each task/project/accomplishment you will need to achieve to move between steps. The results will probably scare you because if you’re ambitious you will realize there are steps you need to take now to be on schedule.

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6. Don’t say, “If it’s meant to be, then it will happen.”

This thought is incredibly comforting and it can occasionally be useful when you’re bravely bouncing back from a setback. But really this thought is just an excuse for inaction. It will be toxic to achievement if you’re not careful because this mind-set may remove the burden of progress from you and allows you to become passive instead of leading the charge on your goals.

7. Surround yourself with people you admire and ditch the ones who breed negativity.

People tend to recalibrate their definitions of what is normal, what is possible, and what counts as success based on their surroundings. You can achieve things that nobody thought possible of you once you’ve reset your standards to a higher point. At the same time, the more successful or happy you become, the more you will either encourage negativity or inspiration in your friends or colleagues. They may have to adapt to a new perspective of what is possible. Surround yourself with people you admire to raise the bar for yourself so you accomplish more, and get rid of those people who want to bring you back down to the level that they’re comfortable with. Just be careful that the people you admire are a diverse group or you risk becoming a polarized, one-dimensional person.

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8. Practical intelligence is a much higher predictor of success than IQ—work on it!

A decent IQ is a prerequisite for any good job, but it’s repeatedly been shown to not be a great indicator of success. In fact, research suggests once you have a moderately high IQ (>125), this is sufficient for pretty much most jobs in the world. A much more reliable indicator of someone’s success than IQ is their creative and practical intelligence. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, describes this as, “not knowledge for its own sake. It’s knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want.” A high IQ enables you to apply yourself very well to a given task, which is good but isn’t going to set you apart. To be successful in the world you have to create tasks, and figure out which tasks you should apply yourself to in the first place.

Have you got any hot tips for young players? Have you ever been given professional advice that worked really well for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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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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