Career Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

do what you love

Part random, part purposeful my career progression is what it is. I had four or five majors before I graduated. I had plans to jump into a good job out of college but started at the bottom doing collections for a finance company. I worked in banking until my mid-30’s then decided to take control and shift careers into what would end up being my job working with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Am I where I envisioned I would be at 53 years old? Hell no, but I have learned a great deal and as soon as I finish my time machine I’ll be ready for a fresh re-start. Until then here are some tips that could maybe help people the right doors opened for their career success.

College won’t teach you what you need to succeed in the world: I absolutely recommend people go to college but understand it is only a small part of what you will need to succeed. You need to find ways to learn and make yourself stand out. Learn in the classroom but at the same time get out into the community and do work that will give you real world skills. There are always non-profits and small businesses that are looking for some cheap or free labor that can help them in areas where they are weak. For you this is invaluable experience that will set you apart from the crowd.

Be willing to start at the bottom as long as it is in your career path: You need to put salaries and titles out of your mind when you are stating your career. You must focus on learning and gaining experience in your chosen profession that you can use in the future. You are better off working in a call center in your preferred industry and learning the business from the ground up than taking an Assistant Manager job that might pay a little more but is not going to get you to where you want to be.

Be an Expert: Have you ever heard the expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none”? The jack of all trades is flexible and able to plug in to various areas and help out. You know what else they do? They are doomed to a life as a middle management grunt working for those that have focused and become the master of their craft.  You have to build a focused specialization and become and expert that people can not do without.

Early in your career only change jobs for experience: In my twenties I was impatient changed jobs every year or two in hopes of climbing the ladder. However, what I thought was climbing the ladder was leading me into middle management purgatory. I would have been better off settling in and learning the business then making a jump to really move me toward my career goal than trying to get a nicer title on my business card.

Don’t worry about the money: To be honest I was never overly focused on the money but I know a lot of people who are. These people miss opportunities to grow their career because of money.  They jump around from job to job chasing a few extra dollars or they refuse to take less money even though it has better upside. You have to have a big picture focus and build your career then the money will come.

Build relationships with leaders in your career field: To be clear you can never have to many relationships in your career field but to really succeed you need to meet people in leadership roles. These are the people that make things happen. They are the ones that can teach you the “real” ropes of the business. They also hire people they know and feel will help the organization regardless of the traditional posted job system. 

Don’t get trapped: Be smart with your money. Stay away from getting in over your head with credit cards, cars or other toys. Heavy debt and bills could force you to miss out on career opportunities because you are to reliant on your next pay check.

Don’t get distracted by sparkly jobs: It is easy to jump at an opportunity that looks like a step up but is outside your career plan. The grass could certainly look greener but you have to look to the future. If you are looking at a new job really ask questions and know what you are getting into and where this job can take you.  

Remember you are in control of what doors you enter when it comes to your career. The more you prepare yourself the more options you will have and the easier the choices will be.