Hindsight is 20/20. As a Career Advisor, I have the opportunity to talk to college students and help them avoid the mistakes my colleagues and I made in our careers. As I recently celebrated another year of life and am entering a new phase of mid-life (whatever that is) I began to contemplate the lessons that I would pass on to my younger self.Whether you are young or young at heart, it is never too late to change — or incorporate some new (and better) practices into your daily life. Don’t misunderstand me, we love what we do, but because of what we know we all would have done one or two things differently and we all would love to share these insights with our younger selves. Here are 10 Pieces of Career Advice You Wish Your Younger Self Knew:
- Don’t worry about what other people think of you.
I used to worry too much what others thought of me, of my decisions and of my actions. Eventually, I came to realize that if you’re wasting too much time seeking validation, respect or approval from others, then you won’t have time to accomplish all that you desire.
Everyone has an opinion, but in reality other’s opinions of you are based more on their history and perceptions than anything you’re actually doing. So while it’s good to ask for feedback, rely on your own assessment of you rather than others.
- Today is what’s important.
This is a biggie on so many levels. Enjoy every moment of today, because you are not guaranteed a tomorrow. Don’t put off your dreams. Don’t wait to do, try, enjoy all of those “someday” items. Don’t tell yourself I’ll do it tomorrow. If it’s important to you, then DO IT TODAY.
Pay attention to what is happening now, to the people around you, to the task at hand and to all of the choices you make today, big and small. What you do today, determines what tomorrow will bring. Our future is set by what we decide and act on today.
- Let it go.
What happened yesterday is over. Those unmet expectations, difficult situations, failures and conflicts are in the past. You can’t change it, so let it go. Don’t waste your energy dwelling on anger, resentment or disappointment. It only keeps you stuck in the past and holds you back from moving forward in your life.
Also, learn to let the little things roll off your back. Insults, criticisms, setbacks — let them all go. Don’t hold on to old resentments or slights. They only weigh you down.
- It’s called work for a reason.
Success at anything takes work. When you hear about an overnight success story, don’t forget about all of the work that came before. It takes time to build a career or a business, prep work, time to learn and fail, time to build a network and a team of mentors and supporters.
You may have to do work you do not enjoy and trudge through the trenches of planning, building, refining, moving up, out, over and redefining before you get to the place where success clicks. Keep going.
- Believe in yourself.
You are your own worst critic, and so can you be your own best supporter. If you do not have confidence in your own value, abilities and contribution, then nobody else will either. You must have faith in your intrinsic worth. We each have something to offer that is necessary and valuable, though we may not know what that something is.
You do not have to be able to see the end zone. Just because you aren’t able to visualize where you might go and how you might succeed, that doesn’t mean it will not happen. And just because you may have made mistakes and have a string of failures behind you does not mean that you can’t achieve your goals in the future. You can do far more than you can imagine.
6. Do NOT follow your passion
I know, I know, this is exactly the opposite of what everyone tells themselves, their friends, their children, and if you have any regret about your career you blame the fact that you didn’t follow your passion. My advice, follow what you are good at, even if it is not something you are passionate about. Employers pay people who do their jobs well, so well in fact that they begin to create better ways to do their job which is called innovation.
Cal Newport, an Assistant Profession of Computer Science at Georgetown University, wrote a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The premise of the book is to NOT follow your passion, you can follow your interests he says and they may lead to passion, but true passion grows out of being really really good at something. Don’t believe me? Check out number 8 in the link below and read about Steve Jobs in Newport’s book.
Steve Jobs was passionate about Zen Buddhism, even wanting to become a monk BEFORE he got into technology. Technology is what he did to make money, small amounts of money at first. What he discovered was he was good at raising money for his technology ideas. Apple came to be because Steve Jobs was good at seeing opportunities in technology and raising money. Zen Buddhism was the passion he didn’t follow for a career. What about all those speeches he gave about following your passion you ask? He had passion for technology, but it grew out of being really good.
7. Start building career skills as early as possible
Were all those college parties you attended really that different that you couldn’t miss a few to schedule early classes a few days a week so you could have an internship in the afternoon? Did your college degree match what career you went into very well at all? The advise we give students at the career center is by spring of Sophomore year you should have an internship. There are many reasons for this, the first being that this gives a student time to do more than one. The reason for doing more than one internship is first, you may discover you hate doing what you thought your dream job would be and you now have time figure something else out and secondly you may need to develop other skills from another company or position.
8. Weigh the career growth opportunity carefully
When you look back at your career, do the positions you have held build on each other? Did each position grow your skill set to make you a more valuable employee? When looking at career options for a first job look at the industry and ask yourself some questions. Is it a growing industry? Does the job I am applying for have a clear career path? Is there a clear career path in the industry? Is this job going to begin to build a skill set for me in something I am interested in? Is the answer to those questions is yes then you will end up with a fulfilling career.
9. Move to where the opportunities are
Looking at your life now how mobile are you? If you are in your forties probably not very. Are you married? Do you have children? How easy would it be to pick up and move for a job? Your younger self has none of that baggage. I am not saying a family is a bad thing, for someone who is established. At 22 or 23 years of age right out of college when you are building a career you need to go where there are the best opportunities. If you love the city you currently live in, then choose a company that has a presence there, or an industry. You can always move back in five years maybe running the region or at a competitor making great money and very satisfied in your career because you went where the best opportunity was and built a great skill set.
- Be a kind person, be an honest person, and be a loving person. For those of you reading this, these are thelast words my father wrote to me just before he diedwhen I was 17. He was trying to impart important wisdom to me, which I didn’t get at first, simply because I was too young. Later in life, I came to understand how profound the message really was.
Expectations are a difficult and complicated thing to live up to, and we often move through life with preconceptions of what they are, in my case from my father. We end up spending most of our lives living up to the wrong things. What his letter did for me was clarify, in a profound way, that expectations are actually two things: hopes and expectations. Later in life, his words helped me define what kind of person I needed to be, and released me from all these other hopes and constraints I had incorrectly placed upon myself. It freed me to become something greater, and I believe that was the gift he was trying to give.