No matter what type of job you’re in, chances are, there are things you wish you would have known earlier in your career. Of course, we all learn by hands-on doing and in-person experience, but there may be certain things that we think could have benefitted us sooner. Below, we asked experts for advice on what they wish they would have known earlier on, because it’s never too late to get inspired and take their advice.
Embrace What Makes You Unique
Everyone is unique in their own way, which means they bring their own individual way of being to the workplace. So, instead of shunning what makes you unique, embrace it, says Candice Simons, owner, CEO, and founder of Brooklyn Outdoor.
“Uniqueness sets you apart from the status quo and leaves an impression on those who cross your path,” she says. “Stepping outside the box is what I do best. As a female in a male-dominated industry, the odds were stacked against me from the beginning. However, I didn’t let this deter me from starting Brooklyn Outdoor. Since a young age, I embraced my outspoken personality and style. The ‘weird’ is what makes you unique — let this be your driving force.”
Promote Yourself Earlier On
Making a name for yourself and continuing to build it over the years helps make you an expert. Nate Masterson, CMO for Maple Holistics, wishes he would have begun doing so sooner.
“I wish I knew to begin promoting myself earlier in my career, plain and simple,” he says. “As a professional in the modern marketing age, establishing a healthy online presence that backs you up as a person of authority in your field can make all the difference in the world in terms of gaining clients and a steady stream of revenue. Now, I know to conduct all of the outreach that I can in order to get my name out there, but it would be nice to go back in time and gain a head start of a few years.”
Prioritize Potential, Not Immediate Financial Gain
Although money is an important factor in a job — whether it’s a promotion at your current job or a new employer that’s trying to court you — it’s not the only factor you should consider.
“I wish I had known to prioritize potential in a position rather than immediate financial gain,” says Masterson. “There were a couple of companies that I worked for earlier in my career that I ended up leaving due to the promise of a higher salary elsewhere — I was very much lulled into a ‘grass is always greener’ mentality in those days, which led to a lot of professional restlessness and dissatisfaction. I’ve settled into a strong position professionally, but looking now at the performance of the companies I had left and the growth they’ve experienced, I can’t help but wonder if I made the wrong decisions. Patience is a virtue — when making decisions about whether or not to leave your current job, it’s advisable to pay closer attention to where you’ll likely be in five years at your company than it is to look at your bottom-line salary of today.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
While your ego may not want to ask for help at work, especially if it’s assumed you already know the answer, it’s advisable to anyway.
“Without a doubt, the one thing I wish I had learned earlier in my career is that people are eager to help you if you will seek them out and ask for help,” says Wayne Strickland, Vice-President of Global Distribution Strategy, Hallmark Cards. “At first, I thought it was expected of me to figure out everything on my own; by doing that, it wasted much of my time and I did not learn as much as fast. Later in my career, I watched a powerful leader grow a complicated business by asking great questions from the smartest people she could find. So, I adopted a new strategy.
“People new in their assignments or at a new company should quickly find out who the smartest, most successful or accomplished people are and get time with them. Ask them if you can seek them out again if you have more questions, and then start to develop them into a small group of your personal mentors. After each meeting, send them a handwritten thank you note (not an email), and thank them for their help. You will find out that people have the answers to most of the questions you are looking for and, if you will take the time and be patient and thoughtful, they will be happy and eager to help you.”
Pay Attention To Your Passions
“What I wish I would have known in my earlier career is, if you don’t know what you want to do, pay attention to how you spend your time and what sites you scour the web to read about,” she says. “Those will be your first clues to piecing it together — to find meaning and happiness in your work. Your natural curiosity equals natural passion — which will take you a lot further professionally. If something’s not challenging or fun, or you cannot find the challenge or the fun in it, it may not be meant for you. Plus, you don’t need to have direct experience as much as you need to have transferable skills and be passionate about learning and trying new things. Namely, quit following well-meaning advice and follow your heart. You’re the only one who really knows what makes you happy.”
Even if you’re more of an introvert and networking sounds like the worst thing in the world, it’s essential. Whether you’re job-hunting or just trying to meet others in your line of work, there are many more benefits than not. Halelly Azulay, Founder & CEO of TalentGrow LLC, where she develops leaders and teams, and author of Employee Development on a Shoestring, agrees.
“In the early part of my career, I tried to avoid networking as much as I could because I didn’t really understand what networking was and how to do it properly,” she says. “I used to think that networking means ‘schmoozing people’ with empty small talk to gain some favor, trick them into giving you something or buying something from you, or generally having to give or get something without mutual benefit. I now see its value and understand how it’s really not unsavory if you do it the right way. When you define networking as simply building and maintaining mutually-beneficial long-term relationships with others, it’s an important part of professional life, and I wish I had started practicing it sooner.”
When you think about it, you are the only one who truly knows what you want to do with your life and career, and if anything holds you back, it’s you. However, this concept is not always easy to accept.
“I jumped into the entrepreneurial world roughly two years out of college, and felt extreme guilt about leaving my ‘real job’ when our first business could support it,” Bill Fish, Certified Sleep Science Coach and Co-Founder of Tuck, says. “I felt like I owed my previous employer loyalty and, by leaving it, would upset a lot of people. I made the right decision, and my life was permanently changed for the better, and what I quickly learned is that you have to be selfish in your business career. This isn’t the 1950s where you graduate high school, get a job at Ford, stay there for 50 years, and they give you a gold watch and you retire. The world moves incredibly fast, and you always need to be on the lookout for a better opportunity. As much as we like to think that they should, an employer isn’t going to swear loyalty to you, so why should you do the same?”
So, it’s *your* turn! What do you wish you would have learned earlier in your career? We’d love to hear what you think! Comment below!