It’s natural to be constantly seeking the best available career advice and inspiration from those around you, self-help books, and the Internet when you’re just starting out and hungry for success. I know I definitely did as I was going through University, meeting with career advisors, and hacking job interviews. But looking back now, most of the things I was told then were irrelevant to the path I actually took.
From my experience, here are the five things I wish I had been told when I stepped into the real world:
You’re one of the lucky few if you’ve already set your life path and are happy with it, that probably means you’re well on your way to pursuing the career of your dreams. Congrats! However, if you’re like the old me and have no clue what you want to do “when you grow up”, you need to look at your options, which may be doing everything you possibly can. That could be working several part-time jobs, interning at various places, and even taking up full-time positions in fields you think you might be interested in. One of the best ways to figure out what you want to do is by simply eliminating the things you don’t want to do. When I worked in finance, I started in operations and then some how had the idea that I wanted to learn about stocks so I took the path of becoming a stockbroker. Once that happened, I realized how much I sucked at it – while all guys on the floor were reading about financial news daily, I was reading fashion blogs and style.com. I learned a lesson quickly: I surely did not belong in finance.
Even though I knew I sucked at giving financial guidance and placing stock trades, I did the best I could. It’s important to give your best effort in a position you don’t necessarily enjoy because that is the revelation of your true work ethic – the one best thing you can take anywhere with you. After six months of almost crying every night, I went on to write for the corporation before I eventually left the industry. You can always take the knowledge you gain in one job with you so do your best, or at least try. This means stop thinking about the “next step” or “promotion” until you’ve mastered what you’re supposed to do.
Keep your eyes and ears opened at all times – it’s the best way to learn. If you can learn a new skill, learn it and if a new position opens up, go at it (but master your current one first). Keep yourself updated and knowledgeable even if it means reading blogs and surfing the internet – it’s pretty much how I got here because I read Zanita and put forth interest in contributing when she mentioned she was looking for writers. So talk to people and keep in touch with them because getting somewhere solely on your own is daunting (and hard).
The department store I currently work for only accepts applications for their annual merchandising program once a year. And I knew it would be tough for me because I was competing with new college grads that studied fashion merchandising or something in that realm and here I was, in finance and manufacturing with zero retail/fashion experience. So I threw myself out there anyway and ended up applying three years in a row before my application was finally accepted (for an interview). It was tough to swallow rejection, but I believed that the right things would happen at the right time so I waited year after year. And guess what…it eventually did.
Things won’t always work in your favor, but that’s life. So if you’re not offered an opportunity, cry about it, be angry for a day or two, but get over it and move on. Reflect on why you may not have been chosen, work on it, then wait for the next opportunity and go at it with full force. You might need to try more than once, but that’s part of the process. Imagine if I had given up after two years of being rejected, I would have never worked in this industry. Ever.
So there you have it – 5 things to keep in your back pocket as you move along in your career. Wishing you good luck!