This continues career advice to the younger me, sharing perspective to those earlier in their careers.
- Trust Your Gut – With experience we all learn to pay more attention to our gut feelings but the earlier you can do that in your career, the better. Hone your instincts for people and situations and then trust those instincts. If you leave the interview with a funny feeling, chances are this is not the right fit for you – whether it is the people you would be working with or the job itself. Your inner self is picking up on many cues during the process. It may be hard to put your finger on exactly what didn’t feel right but in most instances, your gut feelings are telling you something important. Trusting your gut can save you from making serious career mistakes.
- It is Your Career Not Someone Else’s — Throughout your career, well-meaning friends and family members will shower you with advice on what to do or what not to do. Their intentions are good and sometimes they have valuable insights, but, at the end of the day, it is your career. Be mindful of your goals, have a plan to achieve them but be flexible enough to adapt to the opportunities that come your way. No one knows what is best for you but you.
- Own Your Work – It is easy to own your work when things are going well but if you can develop the integrity and fortitude early on to own your mistakes you will advance further and faster in your career. Avoid finger pointing, it is wasted energy. Admit that you made a mistake, learn from it, correct it and never make the same mistake again. Humans are likely to make mistakes somewhere along the line but if you own it and learn from it you set yourself apart from the multitudes and you clearly demonstrate your integrity and work ethic.
- Be The Person They Want to Work With – This does not mean that your boss and your co-workers should be the center of your social universe but work is so much more enjoyable and rewarding if you get along. Do not participate in the office gossip mill and certainly do not spread gossip. Remember people’s birthdays. Ask about their weekend, their vacation or their kids. Be interested and interesting. You spend a lot of hours at work and it so much more enjoyable for everyone when people enjoy working with you. Also build a reputation as the person who gets things done and interesting projects will flow your way.
- Success Doesn’t Have a Title – Your success is defined by you not others. It does not carry a specific title. You do not have to become CEO to be successful and many with that title are not successful by many measures. Consider success this way instead: Are you doing work you enjoy? Are you making a difference? Are you still learning? If you answer yes to at least two of those three questions, you are a success. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to be something you are not. Do what you love and do it well.
Set your goals and have a plan for your career but as life intervenes, remember to explore the curves in the road, learn from the bumps, and enjoy the journey. You define your success.