12 Pieces of Career Advice We Wish We’d Known at Graduation
No matter how good of students we are, it’s always important to heed career advice from those in-the-know. You don’t have to take every piece of it, but it helps to learn from the experiences of those who’ve gone before you. It will help you build a playbook of what you can and can’t accept, as well as whatever it is that you truly want out of life.
We certainly wished we’d heeded some of the advice we received early on in our careers. Of course, some of these truths come about only through experience. At least, that’s how they best resonate, and that’s okay. That being said, think about each of the following dozen pieces of advice intently. Take what sounds good to you. Good luck!
1. Slow Down
The first piece of career advice we would share with our older selves is that you don’t have to accomplish everything at once. In fact, that often does more harm than good. The concept of a hotshot young graduate shooting straight to the top of the company was always a bit of an exaggeration.
It failed to take into account the importance of collecting and synthesizing life experience. Don’t feel bad in your inexperience. We’ve all been at that point in life where we wished we had the tools to rise higher than our current level allows us to. Grinding it out is the only answer.
Think of a career like a marathon instead of a sprint. Greet each day as its own challenge. Give it everything you’ve got. Always leave time to reflect on what you’ve learned.
2. Embrace Repetition
The key to learning anything is repetition. The more you repeat it, the more you’ll learn it. So if you’re trying to learn something new, write it down and repeat it to yourself. The more you repeat it, the more you’ll learn it and the better you’ll retain it.
If you’re just starting out, then focus on mastering one thing. Don’t try and do everything at once. Identify the one thing you’re best at and then focus all of your energy on being the best at that one thing.
3. Listen to Others
It’s easy to think that we understand what someone else is saying, but it’s often a case of missing the forest for the trees. Active listening means you’re really focusing on what the person is saying and not thinking about what you’re going to say next.
Active listening is something that a lot of people struggle with. You’re not just listening with your ears, but you’re also listening with your eyes and you’re really trying to understand and empathize with the other person. You’re not just waiting for your chance to speak.
Active listening is way more than just hearing what someone else is saying. It’s about listening to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. Active listening will open many more doors for you than constantly trying to assert yourself or being the company know-it-all.
4. Choose Your Boss Wisely
Yes, you can choose your boss. It takes time and understanding of what you are willing to accept from another human being or company. It’s all about deciding what your own values are and then finding the job and corporate culture that vibes with that.
Now, we’ll all inevitably work for some difficult people throughout our lives. Sometimes we might have to take what they dish out for a little while. But if it ever starts going in that direction, you should start working on your escape plan.
An escape plan should be executed with wisdom and graciousness. Always. Avoid the angry walkout at all costs because that will make it more difficult to find good jobs moving forward.
5. Practice Empathy
Empathizing with others plays into the active listening advice. It helps you stop being self-focused (how do I create value for me?). Instead, you become focused on others (how do I create value for them?).
From a career standpoint, you should always be creating value for other people. That’s not possible without having empathy for them.
6. Build a Diverse Network
Diversity means race, lifestyle, orientation, religious background (or lack thereof). It also means work experience and knowledge. Diversity is the rising tide that floats all ships. It makes companies better, and it makes people better. Thankfully, younger generations are more easily grasping this than the ones some of us fall in. Continue to embrace and expand your definition of what diversity means.
7. Learn What Your Boss Does
Seriously, it helps your relationship with her! It also benefits you by giving you a clear understanding of how your own efforts fit in, as well as what you need to do to rise above your current position within a company or industry.
Bosses are people like you. They make mistakes and sometimes have to choose paths that are unpopular. As long as you know what the objective of their position is, you will be able to accept whatever influence their decisions have over your life.
8. Seize Rare Opportunities
Got a chance to study overseas or work in a large city (even if it means having to uproot yourself from the comforts of small-town life)? Take that opportunity! Temporary hardships are totally worth it if it makes you more experienced, more marketable, and feeling more fulfilled.
We would even encourage you to seek out these rare opportunities. Doing so will help you be more outgoing and bolder when it comes to taking the reins over the direction of your life.
9. Make a Friend or Two
School friends are great, but you should really consider making them where you work. That’s because you will spend a large amount of time at work throughout your life. Much more than you will ever spend with your college pals or family.
It helps to have genuine, affectionate relationships with these people. It will only boost the enjoyment you have for the job itself. Don’t shy away from socializing with your work friends. Just do it in a way that doesn’t interfere with your professionalism while on the job.
10. Identify Your Personal Ethics
Personal ethics might change over time but should always be an extension of your character. Therefore, try never to deviate from them once you know what is important to you. Live it in your life and your work. As long as you do, you’ll always be able to look at yourself in the mirror.
11. Do Not Fear Failure
Failure is how we grow. It’s how we learn. It’s how we receive new opportunities and possibilities.
Fear of failure is what keeps us locked in old ways. It’s what makes it impossible to escape from whatever restraints we had to grow up with. Try things with the full knowledge that you’ll usually lose. But when you win, the fruits of that are incredible!
12. Be Open to Change
That means your work ethic, your beliefs, and ideals, if they are no longer serving you. How do you know if they’re serving you? Well, are you happy? Are you at peace? Are you proud of the work that you do? If not, it’s time to find a new profession!
This Career Advice Will Keep You From Falling Into Traps
We hope this career advice will serve you well as you graduate from high school or college and move into your professional life. Now it’s your turn. What are some things you would add to our list? Share in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons]