Six bits of career wisdom I wish I could tell my 23-year-old self
Millions of new graduates are entering the workforce, eager to make their marks on the business world. They’re entering a promising labor market with jobless claims levels at their lowest since 1973. They’re armed with passion, polished resumes and the best educations academia can provide, yet few know what they really are getting into.
Some lessons simply cannot be taught in a classroom – only through experience. If I could go back in time, this is the career wisdom I’d share with my 23-year-old self:
1) What business leaders really want are people who can get ahead of the curve and anticipate. It’s a big differentiator and accelerator in a career — anticipating opportunities, anticipating challenges and anticipating changing dynamics.
2) You become what you think about. Often, new graduates think they must have everything figured out. Not so. You don’t have to have everything figured out, and you don’t have to have a perfect plan. It’s going to be a long, winding road. Just have a clear idea about what success means to you personally and then use that vision as a compass to remain focused on your ultimate goal. The key is to make decisions that align with your concepts of personal success and to just keep making progress.
3) There can be more than one right answer to a problem. Always thinking there’s a “bad” and a “good” answer creates pressure and can cause indecision. I used to believe that every decision I made was either right or wrong, but I have changed my thinking about this over time. I remember times when I had made what I considered to be “lucky” decisions that turned out to be “right.” But it wasn’t that I made the right or the wrong choices. It was because I invested time and effort in what I really believed was best, and that ultimately made it the right decision.
4) Get perspectives from others. But really listen, rather than search for confirmation bias. Looking for confirmation can lead to a myopic mentality. Be open to different ways of thinking and other feedback. But don’t lock yourself into committing to a suggestion either. Take good feedback, think about it and then make your decision.
5) When things sound too good to be true, they probably are. Believe in the value of hard work and that hard work always pays off. I’ve seen many people my age whose careers didn’t go where they wanted because they were always looking for the quick hit and they flamed out. Those shortcuts end up sending these false expectations that things can just happen overnight. And when they don’t, people get discouraged.
6) Don’t make assumptions. So many disconnects and miscommunications happen because people assume rather than ask for clarification. When I was in sales, I wanted to know what people were really thinking. So, I just asked for confirmation and clarity. It was amazing how many things surfaced from asking instead of assuming. Everyone has experienced the feeling in a discussion when they don’t know something and they should ask for explanation, but they don’t. That’s when they assume. Just ask!
This article was previously published by ACBJ.