I was recently reflecting on the fact that my college graduation was nine years ago, and that my business school graduation was five years ago. Umm, what?! I hate to be all cliché, but time really did fly. Although it didn’t always feel that way.
With it being graduation season and all, I thought it would be fun to post my top 10 pieces of career advice. Words that (hopefully) resonate with new grads as well as seasoned professionals.
Upon graduating from college, I joined a global accounting organization. A few weeks into the job, I told a friend that I was going to make partner one day. In that moment in time, I truly meant it. Fast-forward to about six months later and I wanted out. For so many reasons, the career that once made me think big and reach for the stars now felt like a heavy brick sitting flat on my chest weighing me down.
I eventually did leave that job. In fact, I went to business school, earned my MBA, and changed career paths altogether. And I’m not going to lie. Every now and then I still feel like I have a brick on my chest. Even after making a personal and very conscience decision to turn my life upside down for a while.
That’s where the following 10 pieces of career advice come into play. These are the things I wish someone had told me nine years ago (especially #1 and #2) and the things I still tell myself to this day:
1. Don’t freak out when your first job isn’t a love-at-first-sight kind of experience. It’s 100% okay not to love your first job out of school. Heck, it’s okay not to love your second, third, and fourth jobs as well. It took me a while, but I’ve learned that it’s not about the perfect job. It’s about adding value, being creative, and making a difference.
2. Don’t be afraid to change career paths. I majored in Finance, worked for an accounting firm, earned my MBA, worked in traditional HR, and now focus on international strategic HR. And guess what? I’ve never been told that my semi-frequent career shifts are a red flag. If anything, each change has enabled me to focus on assignments I truly enjoy.
3. Find a mentor(s) you can confide in and trust and really nurture and value the relationship. That one investment will reap considerable returns in the future.
4. Be open to constructive feedback. When you show up every day, work hard, and put your best foot forward, (most of) the people you work with will have your back. So, when someone offers you an opportunity for improvement, don’t take it personally. First and foremost, listen to what the person has to say. Once you’ve understood and assessed where the feedback and the person are coming from, think about how you can use the information, do just that, and move on.
5. Do the stuff no one else wants to do. For example, raise your hand for the tough assignments. Even if it seems impossible, trust yourself, take a deep breath, and get to work. You’ll figure it out!
6. Take every opportunity to improve your public speaking and presentation skills! I know standing up and speaking in a room full of people is scary and daunting. But if you can face your fears and tackle this, you’ll be light years ahead of most people in your field. I guarantee it!
7. Speak up! From having an idea you want to share with your team to believing you deserve a promotion, absolutely nothing will happen unless you speak up. Easier said than done, I know. But it’s your career. Own it.
8. Network, network, network! Connecting with like-minded people is always a good thing, but keep in mind that it’s not a one-way street. Remember to do your part by following up, keeping promises, and carrying business cards with you at all times!
9. Try your best to stay away from the proverbial water cooler. Office gossip will try to lure you into it’s seemingly innocent web. Don’t fall for it. Be friendly and stay focused.
Plus a bonus tip my mom shares with me quite regularly.
10. Don’t just glance over your HR policies. Pay attention to things like 401ks and HSAs. And setup an automatic withdrawal that goes from your paycheck directly into your bank account. This one was hard for me at first, but you won’t miss that money especially when you see it growing and taking on a life of its own.
Nine years and three companies later, I’ve come to realize that the only person who can chip away at the brick(s) that weighs me down is me. It’s my career and my responsibility.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?