In honour of Worker’s Day, some good career advice.
Could you imagine being young again and still having all of the knowledge you have now? Imagine all of the things you would do differently. Imagine all of the choices you made when you didn’t know any better… especially career decisions – wouldn’t it be great to travel back in time and have the wisdom to make better decisions?
Being given good advice is just as good as travelling back in time, minus the complications of quantum mechanics, black holes or space time geometries. If that’s the case, why do we find it so hard to listen to good advice? Here are the things I wish I knew when I started my career.
- Take your time!
When you’re young, you don’t have a lot. What you do have is enormous debt from student loans, a whole lot of confusion about life in general and a really crap car (if you’re lucky). Sometimes we forget the most important thing on our side at a young age is time. There’s no need to rush – a career is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll need to work hard and allow yourself to become genuinely good at something.
- Learn patience and endurance.
Success comes from repetition. If you’re not good enough at something, do it again. A hundred times. A thousand times. A million times if that’s what it takes. This is the only way to become genuinely good at something, and how you learn a profession. Nobody is born a talented Pianist or a successful Businessman. We become these things through many hours of practice.
- Don’t discredit yourself.
Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean your opinions don’t count. Just because you’re the Tea Lady, doesn’t mean your ideas are stupid. Never act as a Novice – if you have a good idea, share it! Don’t let your age or perceived skill level get in the way of you communicating a great idea. In the same spirit, always be ready to accept and learn from criticism when it comes your way.
- Manage your career well.
If you’re fortunate enough to be in a good job while you’re young, do it well! Learn to manage the expectations of your clients and seniors, and make the right decisions to make sure you’re in the best possible position in terms of your career
- Genuinely listen to others.
When we’re young, we have all the answers… or at least we think we do. Only later we learn that we don’t know as much as we thought, and that as a group we are far more effective. Learn to really listen to the opinions of others, and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. Often the most valuable input comes from the most unexpected sources.
- Learn from the best.
Smart, young people tend to form communities with other young people, and exclude the older generation. This can be restrictive. Look up to role models and important figures to help you learn new things! Would you rather take the advice of a colleague your age, or someone who has been seen great success?
- Understand why you’re doing the work you’re doing.
South Africa’s job market is pretty competitive, which means young graduates can’t always start their desired career right away. We need to pay the bills and often start a new job with a pessimistic attitude, thinking ‘I’m too good for this, this is just a stepping stone’. This attitude doesn’t help anyone. Work ethic means giving 100%, no matter what the job is. President Kennedy once visited NASA and asked a cleaner what his job was, and the cleaner replied that he sent rockets to the moon. He had the right attitude.
- Never, EVER compromise your values!
If you are in a situation where you are questioning your own personal ethics and values, get out. It’s not worth it. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Never give up on your values – bad things only manifest when good people don’t take a stand.
- Failure = Learning.
You’re not always going to get it right the first time, or even the tenth time. Try to see failure as part of a process to eliminate unsuccessful options. Make friends with failure – your friend who reminds you to stay on the right track. Remember that pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.
Time travel is not an option, but good advice is all around you. Take your time, keep working hard and don’t be afraid of failure. You’ll thank yourself ten years from now.