In our business we get to talk a lot about “careers”. This is a hot topic in our home at the moment; not only for our 20 year old son, who has moved away from home to further his education, but also for our daughter who has just chosen her GCSE options.
There is some career guidance that you just don’t get given (well – I didn’t)…. I have given the topic a lot of thought over the years and I have gathered a list of what I wish I had known about when I started on my career path. It may just have to come with experience; but if this blog can just help one young person when they’re starting out on their career journey – it’ll be worth it.
Always be learning
You don’t have to be in a classroom to be learning. “Watch, listen and learn” – sounds simple and it is. Make a note of what you see; what’s working, what’s not working.
Carve out time in your week to for your own specific learning. Even if you just watch a TED talk or read a few pages of a new book, ensuring that you have time in your schedule to stretch your horizons makes it habit and likely that you’ll continue for the rest of your career.
It’s very easy to fall into your natural talents or training, but you’ll be well served if you invest a bit of time and effort to push yourself on your greatest areas of weakness early and often in your career.
Learn to sell
I don’t mean you need to become a sales rep, I mean you need to learn to sell your ideas. Make presenting yourself and your ideas something that helps you stand out from the pack. Selling yourself doesn’t have to be public speaking. It can also be creative presentation or good collaborating. The key is to learn how to sell your ideas and your input as early in your career as possible; doing so helps your personal and professional brand and builds your comfort level with expanding your influence and ideas.
Write down your goals
I started this early on in my career and still do it today. The research is clear, if you write down your goals, you’re much more likely to achieve them. Writing what you want to be when you “grow up” even if you’re not sharing your aspirations with another soul; makes you much more likely to be focused on achieving your goals.
A lot of young people are not exactly sure what they want to be, and that’s okay. Instead, write down more of what you want to do, what you think you might aspire to, or someone you want to be more like. All of those things are going to help you inch closer and closer to your aspirations.
Deliver remarkable work
The best way forward is absolutely crushing results in your job, doing so pays dividends for the rest of your career. Don’t be so fascinated with climbing the corporate ladder that you’re not delivering what it takes to get up there.
One of the biggest errors we see is people who complain about not getting credit for their work. Yes, it is very frustrating when other people get credit for your hard work. However, over time I can tell you that fortune rewards those who get the results instead of focusing on getting credit. Focus on your results, your career will thank you for it later.
Don’t bite at feedback
I only really understood the value of feedback once I had become a manager and was responsible for a large team of people. When you are young, you tend to put your heart and soul into your work, which is a good thing, but you do tend to take feedback personally – I know I did.
To combat that gut reaction, I suggest pondering on it for at least 24 hours. It allows you to think about what’s true and what isn’t. Think about how you can use it to develop & grow.
This time for reflection also allows you to have productive conversations with your manager. If you’re personally hurt, offended, or angry, you’re no longer listening. You’ve shut down. If you actually take the time to absorb feedback, you’re going to have a conversation with your manager that will actually help you get to the next level.
Who manages your career?
Your manager is not a fortune-teller or psychologist. They can and should help you with your professional goals, but there is only one person who can make them happen – and that is YOU. Take as much feedback as you can get – and work on it. Doing so will pay dividends all the way through your career regardless of what job you do.
Tackle the big stuff…. Notice what is important in your business. Put yourself forward for those high risk, but high reward tasks. The work you do can play a big part in your career for decades to come. Managers notice employees who aren’t afraid of the big stuff and your colleagues will always want to be with someone who can tackle a big challenge. However, be careful to remain thoughtful, diligent and humble whilst doing so – no one likes a ‘know it all’ or a ‘show off’.
Use social media
Most people think of social media as a way to connect with friends, but it is also a powerful lever in getting future employers to notice you. First and foremost, get rid of all those photos, comments and things from your years of partying at Uni etc… Second, update your LinkedIn profile with recent results, every quarter preferably, so it’s always up to date and fresh. Finally, share content from companies and people who you admire.
Learn to rebound
Someone once said “Your career isn’t always linear. But what matters is how well you get back on the horse.” If a things don’t go your way or a job didn’t turn out as planned, don’t let it get you down. Your success is depends heavily on your ability to bounce back from challenges, so the earlier you learn to reset your attitude after a setback, the better.
Embrace your vulnerability
Brené Brown said in her TED talk on vulnerability “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” By realising that even successful people have imperfections, you become free to admit your own and more able to work on them. Humility and vulnerability feel like threats to your career when you’re young, However, they are actually powerful weapons for growing yourself as a professional (and a human being).
Signing up with a new company used to mean years (if not decades) of your life, but now that people switch jobs every few years, managing your career has become both more important and more challenging. Options seem infinite, and far too early you start comparing your career trajectory to that of others, worried that you’re being left behind or left out. Instead of overthinking your next job, your next decision, or your next networking event, focus on being remarkable at your job, tackling your weaknesses head-on, and being someone who isn’t afraid to take on tasks that other people find terrifying. The rest of it will work itself out, I promise.
What other advice would you give to someone starting out in their career? Let us know in the comments.