Career Advice I Would Give My 20-Year-Self
If I Could Turn Back Time...
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
They say that youth is wasted on the young. As a person who was once young, I would tend to agree – albeit partially. Of course, I arrive at this conclusion in my mid-thirties as I ruefully look back at the myriad mistakes that I repeatedly made in the early part of my career.
But rare is the person who does not look back and wish that certain episodes could have been played out differently. Admittedly, trying to give serious advice to my 20-year-old self was a difficult task but something that I wish I could experience. If you are in your early twenties and looking to enter the job force, take a look at some of the pointers below that I wish I could have offered myself all those years ago.
1. Promote yourself
As a 20-year-old job seeker, I was far too timid. With a very altruistic belief system, I clung to the notion that employers would take the time to discover my inner brilliance and that I wouldn’t need to market myself aggressively. As opportunities came and went, I spent far too much begrudging interviewers rather than seeing that the problem was with my timidity and inability to speak highly of myself. While it may not feel natural to brag about your skill sets to total strangers, it is an absolutely necessary component of landing the job that you seek. Don’t be shy, promote yourself.
2. Look at the big picture
I spent the early years of my career toiling in jobs that were not directly related to my desired career path. I made decisions to work in these wrong jobs for the wrong reasons and remained in them for far too long. I worked in a dead-end job for over a year simply because the office was across the street from my home and several of my friends worked there. While it was fun and easy to show up to work, it hindered my overall career evolution. If you have specific career aspirations, work on getting yourself involved in those goals immediately.
3. Be patient
Yes, there are 23-year-old CEO’s out there making millions of dollars. But the truth is that not all 23-year-olds have that capacity. Just because you are smart and work hard doesn’t mean that you are going to be promoted to a haughty position within months of being with an organisation. Careers take years to build so be patient with your progress. You have a whole lifetime to get where you’re going. Also, your goals evolve over time so be prepared to want something totally different at, say 25, than you did at 20.
4. Always remain professional
As satisfying as it was to walk out on a poor-paying job or to tell my boss what I really thought of him, I would later regret these actions. You will spend your life building your career and reputation and you never want a decade-old flare-up to derail all your hard work. Remain professional and balanced at all times.
5. Take risks
There is no better time to take risks with your career than when you are starting out. As scary as it may seem when you have rent to pay, it becomes increasingly terrifying when you have a mortgage and a family to feed. I will never regret the flyer that I took on a small start-up back in 2002 that, effectively, launched my entire career. A job with no benefits, a low salary and an office 60 minutes from my home was not terribly appealing at the time. But the risk was rewarded less than 2 years later when I was able to parlay that experience into a big time role within a much larger and more prosperous organisation.
6. Don’t worry about money
Yes, this is almost impossible to ignore. My 20-year-old self refused to take on internships as I could not afford to work for free. But in hindsight, a 3-month internship could have propelled me further professionally than 2 years of working lowly jobs. You may need to sacrifice your present for a better future.
7. Work hard
Nothing is going to be given to you. You may be smarter, funnier, taller or faster than your competitors but you will be overlooked in your career if others are willing to work harder for it. As a manager, I always look for hard-working and dedicated resources over talented but lazy people. I can’t speak for all organisations, but my experience has shown that those with the drive and motivation tend to excel further than those who don’t push themselves as hard.
In the end, life is always easier in retrospect. We all have those moments that we wish we can go back and change; however, until we develop a reliable method for traveling back in time, you may not get the chance. The best you can do right now is to take a few moments to think about your short-and long-term goals and try to devise some sort of plan. While you will certainly deviate from it along the way, you will hopefully have less to lament ten years from now.