6 pieces of career advice I wish I’d heard/listened to sooner.
You live and you learn, right? Well, here are the top 6 lessons I’ve learned over the course of my twenty years in the workforce. Enjoy!
1 – ASK QUESTIONS!
Don’t assume you’re the only one who doesn’t understand. You’re a smart cookie; if you have a question, I can guarantee someone else does as well. Probably several people. Do them and yourself a favor by being the first to ask. And remember, just because you’re asking for further clarification does not mean you’re doing anything wrong. In fact, it probably means you’re invested in the outcome, and that’s a very good thing.
2 – Go For That Promotion, Even If You Don’t Feel 100% Ready
You’ve probably heard this by now, but it bears repeating. Several articles have been written about the studies that show men need to meet only ~50-60% of the stated requirements in a job announcement to feel qualified to apply. Women? Close to 100%. Trust me when I say, a job announcement is a wish list. I spent far more time writing and reviewing those things that I’d like to recount, and I promise you, a lot of those “requirements” are actually “nice-to-haves”. Most companies will list every single thing they could every possibly want in a candidate, with the hopes of some special unicorn applying. Spoiler alert – that unicorn rarely shows up. My advice is to work off the assumption that you’re already more qualified than over half of the people applying and hit submit.
3 – Commit Yourself To A Mission, Not An Organization or Job Title
Companies are fickle; you don’t have to be. For a company to survive in an uncertain economy, or any other environmental factor outside your control, they may have to shape-shift. That doesn’t mean you have to if the newly defined company mission or objective no longer aligns with your personal mission. When you know what impact you make in this world, it’s a lot easier to walk away from an organization that no longer fits the bill. You come first.
4 – Pay Isn’t Everything, But When You’re Underpaid It Will Feel Like It Is
We know money can’t buy happiness, but not having enough of it sure as hell can make things tough. If you are clearly underpaid for the work you perform, no amount of pizza parties or Friday happy hours are going to make up for it. It’s not shallow to ask for more, and it’s not wrong to walk away if you don’t get it. In a capitalist society, money often equals safety – especially for women.
5 – YOUR Professional Development Is YOUR Responsibility – Pay For The Class / Training / Certification
This one might piss some people off, but I’m here for your growth, not your comfort: you have to pay for your own professional development. It’s not your company’s job to elevate your skills, it’s yours. While it might be considered the industry norm in some sectors, healthcare and government being two examples that I happen to have years (decades?) of experience with, it’s unlikely to stay that way. Industries change, budgets get cut, and prioritizing your career advancement will be one of the more obvious ways to differentiate yourself from your coworkers. Invest in yourself.
6 – Trust. Your. Gut.
If it feels off, consider that it very well could be off. You are the authority of your body, and our bodies are often a lot more intelligent than our brains. If something feels wrong or like it’s a bad deal, it probably is. Trust yourself. Period.
Ok, now it’s your turn. What else do you wish your younger self knew?