I don’t expect anyone to take my career advice seriously. I’ve admitted to being confused and undecided. At nearly 26…I don’t know what path to take. That’s not to say I’m not thinking very hard about every option. Still. Seems like it shouldn’t be this hard…but it is.
Nonetheless, in my brief time as a professional, I have collected some key principles that make you successful in any career, at any time. Some are things I gathered from my own inference and testing – others from valued advisors and mentors – like Cassandra Borchers and Nancy Walker.
Number 1 – Always be good at the job you have, before you go looking for another. I know this seems odd, if you’re in a job you hate, but this has value. If you power through a job that you don’t truly enjoy, you show that you have persistence, diligence, and in many cases, patience to find the job you do truly enjoy. And, it’s good karma to not do your boss or coworkers a disservice by not giving a sh*t.
Number 2 – Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer. This speaks to a larger theme of being comfortable with imperfection and uncertainty…but I think it works for minute instances too. Others appreciate authenticity in a friend, coworker, or potential new hire – and most of us learn things as we go, rather than know everything up front. And that is OK. Roll with it.
Number 3 – Don’t be afraid to say no. This doesn’t make you popular in the moment, but ultimately, knowing your boundaries and avoiding being taken advantage of is important, especially when you feel obligated, being low on the totem pole. Emphasizing respect and proper work etiquette will make your time more pleasant and let others know you have a backbone. Everything in moderation, of course.
This applies to all aspects of life, actually. I regularly turn down dates, social invites, and have been to many job interviews where it’s more me saying “no this isn’t right for me” vs. the potential employer saying “no I don’t think you’d do well here.” Do you, and you’ll be fine.
Number 4 – Know your value in terms of the problem at hand. Rather than harping on all the skills you have, think about what the problem is for an employer, and then relate that back to what you are capable of doing. For instance…my value to planning and engineering firms is that I understand (or can learn relatively quickly) the work that they do, and can translate that into simple, digestible media and content for public consumption. This isn’t always the easiest with industries you’re unfamiliar with, but it’s a good skill to practice. Ask questions, and then formulate your ‘worth.’
Number 5 – Not all valuable experience is paid. Or full time. Though it’s pretty cliche, volunteering is a really good way to gain diverse experience and skills. It’s also nice for your resume (bulks), and you inevitably make connections and show your fellow volunteers/temps how much of a general bang-up person you are. I had a lot of fun moonlighting for an event planner during the Republican National Convention, and am currently in the midst of planning, coordinating, and liaising for the 43rd Annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
Number 6 – (the most cliche of all)Â Enjoy the journey. This is also the one I struggle with the most. The constant barrage of Facebook self-promotion and media assessments that we all should be driving brand new cars and traveling constantly (but when would we be driving…?) can be overwhelming, and I’ve learned to actively tune out that sort of stuff. To some, I’m sure my life looks peachy, and that’s awesome, but it’s not. And neither is anyone else’s. So stop beating yourself up about not having this or not getting to do that. Focus on your own goals, and work toward them. Everything else will fall in line.
Everyone is on his or Â her own journey, with unique circumstances. Every decision leads you to a different result, and you can’t turn back time. That said, if you live by some of the principles above, I think you can optimize the time you spend in a more general young-adult internal unrest.