Career Notes To A Younger Self

I recently spoke with a longtime friend whose daughter is graduating into a difficult job market. We both reminisced about being in that situation, and it got me to thinking about what I would tell my younger self about careers. This is my time capsule to my younger self:

*Your college major will not definitively make or break you. It provides the foundation knowledge for what comes next; however, if you major in accounting and end up in marketing instead, the education is still useful.

*You get as many career do-overs as you need. I cannot tell you the number of people who excoriated me for leaving the social work field. I felt strongly, though, that the research in that field was not top caliber, did not provide realistic tools to help disadvantaged populations, and as a result, created many disillusioned social workers. I told my critics to pursue their own low paying social work career, and I moved on to related fields.

*Career path is an important learning experience. Landing that dream job may be key, but analyzing how you got there is important too. It helps you name what worked, what didn’t, the mistakes you made and how you fixed them, all important info for that next career move.

*Career trends come and go; do what makes you happy and pays the bills.

*Take a leap of faith and try a job you never, ever thought you would do, even if it’s just for a little while. You may learn things that are of tremendous value to you.

*Being fired is not the worst thing that can happen. It can actually lead to a better job fit somewhere else.

*Staying in a job that makes you unhappy is not physically or emotionally healthy. Ever read an at will work agreement? It means the employer can fire you at will with no notice, but the employee is required to give at least 2 weeks’ notice. Hmmm. There’s something wrong with that. There are times such as when you are in physical danger or being bullied where it is totally appropriate to leave without notice. Period.

*You are your most important competitor. Sure, you can learn from others in your field, but constantly comparing yourself to those whom you think are better, smarter or luckier than you can lead to feeling very discouraged about yourself. Measure your work against your previous accomplishments to keep improving because, unless you are a boss or working as a team, the only person’s work for which you are responsible is your own.

*Being the boss. You need self-discipline to work on your own. Being your own worst critic does not help you move forward. In managing others, look to what worked in the past when you were being managed.