Dear Younger Me – Part One

I was recently asked what I know now at this stage of my career, that I wish I had known much earlier.  That certainly got the wheels spinning!  Hopefully others can benefit from the advice I wish someone had given me years ago.

Dear Younger Me,

You have worked hard to complete your education and are now embarking on your career with the highest of expectations fueled by energy, enthusiasm and passion.  From someone who has already traveled that path and has watched countless others along the way, here are some key things to consider and the earlier you learn them the more successful you can be.

  • Performance Matters – In real life, not everyone gets a trophy. The best thing you can do to advance your career is to perform well in the job you currently have.  Always do your very best and anticipate the next steps before you are asked.  Deliver beyond expectations.  Ensure that your work is always accurate and timely.  Become the “go to” person who they can count on to get things done.  Interesting projects and assignments will come your way once you have established that reputation and advancement opportunities will follow.  Regardless of what your current responsibilities include, do you very best is all aspects of the job to earn those more exciting projects.  This worked well for me and I consistently see it working well for others.  Don’t wait to learn this on your own.  Strive for excellence from day one in your career.
  • The Path is Not Always Straight – Life and business are complicated and not everything can be anticipated so the road is often filled with curves, detours and disruptions. The next best step for your career may not always be up.  Consider lateral moves that will expand your experience and marketability.  Look for opportunities where you can gain valuable learning and experience.  Consider a different industry or a different department within the same company.  Broader knowledge can be a valuable asset as you advance in  your career.  Don’t be so focused on the next step up the ladder that you miss exciting opportunities along the way.
  • Patience is a Virtue – As the employee you do not control the timeline of your career advancement so you need to learn to be patient. You do not get promoted because you have been in the position for two years.  You get promoted because you have done outstanding work, you have taken on significantly more responsibility and there is a business need and justification.  Instead of using your energy worrying about why you haven’t been promoted yet, invest that energy in improving your skills and by demonstrating your value to the organization while still in your current job.
  • Learning and Growth Come More Quickly from Challenging Times – It is so easy to assume that it is a perfect time to move to a new company when sales are down, budgets are tight, there is management turnover or even a merger or acquisition. Often you learn more and gain significantly more experience in challenging times than you do when everything is going smoothly.  Sometimes sticking it out helps you demonstrate your skills and that is rewarded in the long run.  Worst case you gain experience working and maybe even managing during difficult times.  This experience can significantly differentiate you from the competition for future opportunities.  Anyone can deliver results when things are running smoothly but doing so under challenging conditions can ultimately make you shine.
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