1. Learn How to Market Your Skills Early
A lot of us aren’t taught how to properly market our skills. Educators develop our talents, but not necessarily how we present those talents professionally.
I was never told how important networking was in college; that you’re social skills have to match your book skills, and that emotional intelligence is just as essential as actual intelligence.
I was also never prepared for the harsh reality that often it’s not just what you know, but who you know – and going into your first business venture, you’ll always think you know more than you do.
Know that you cannot thrive based on talent alone.
Looking back, I was so darn naive, and many years ago when the business world became a necessity for me to survive, I was anything but equipped.
Equip yourself early – meet people – take those internships – network – always be planning for the future.
Every person you meet has something to offer, and you have much to offer them; figure out what these things are and become beneficial to each other.
Don’t party too much, but don’t shut yourself in either.
Go beyond what you’re good at and learn as many new things as you can – the more skills you develop, the better. Have a fallback and have a fallback for your fallback.
Sometimes, your career will not go as you planned; who you think you are going to be now will often be very different from who you actually become. There’s nothing wrong with revising your future.
Make sure your skills are marketable across several potential career paths – shoot for the best and plan for the worst, odds are, your first year in business will fall somewhere in the middle.
Don’t get so discouraged.
It’s easy to focus on all the wrong things too early and the right things a bit late.
Please don’t think that your first love will be your only love because it will interfere with the progress you could be making now and all of your infinite potential.
2. You Don’t Start Out with Your Dream Job
When I entered my first year in business I thought I was going to be paid a lot more money because I was good at what I did, in fact, I didn’t even think my knowledge, personality, or criteria fit a traditional business model.
I struggled at finding a place for what I knew; an open door that looked inviting.
I did a lot of freelancing, ate a lot of mac and cheese, drank too much wine, lived in grand cities that I couldn’t afford, and closed myself off from the possibility of other opportunities.
My first year in actual business sucked. I hated my job. I thought it was beneath me – that my superiors weren’t really using my skills and the ones they were using were highly under-compensated. What I didn’t know is that there was so much more I needed to learn, about myself, about my job, about the people around me, and about the woman I was choosing to share a home with.
My first year in business I learned how little I actually knew. This realization could have beaten me, but it didn’t.
I was a freshman in high school all over again. No one likes a freshman – you’re scared, you’re fragile, you’re awkward, you’re inexperienced, you lack confidence, and no one wants to hang out with you (except for other freshmen). You are teeming with weakness, and people will sniff it out and eat you up because of it.
But every year you learn a little more, and come senior year you rule the school. You laugh at your younger self and how little you knew then. You look at the newbies coming through the hall, and maybe you are wise enough to empathize; to extend a kindness here and there.
Looking back on my first year in business, I would have told my younger self to toughen up. I would have told myself, stop envying what other people have, earn your way up – fight harder!
There will be people around you that move ahead without earning any of it, and that’s pretty tough to stomach, but your path can be better – and far more rewarding.
Learn the right time and frequency for debate – always back up your opinions with facts.
3. Strategize Your Success
If you want something, you need legitimate reasons as to why you deserve it, and even then you may not get it. Gain your experience, learn your industry, and study the politics in every job you take – there are always politics.
Stay until you truly outgrow your position and strategize your next move; don’t blindly abandon your responsibilities because you don’t feel like going into the office that day.
Fight for change, but do it amicably.
Don’t dress like crap either; too many people are taking business casual to a whole new level.
Know what you deserve, get there, and don’t let anybody tell you that you are acting like more than what you are. Have confidence, but don’t be a jerk about it. My father always said that you have to fake it until you make it; a cliché, yes, but clichés become clichés because they are worth repeating.
Some people are happy with where they are and see no reason for moving forward; I am not one of them. I have learned something valuable from every job I’ve undertaken, and just as much (if not more) from my failures than successes. Every day I want more for my life, because with each step up or the ones that I miss, I become wiser.
Standing still is not an option.
Want more for your life…
but remember to enjoy all you’ve accomplished so far.
The people that become most valuable to our lives may be totally unexpected. Family, blood or not, fight for you – they help you get where you need to go – they call you out on your sh*t – they maintain loyalty in spite of it – they are there for the worst and the best – they laugh with you and cry for you – maturity is giving them less and less reasons to cry because of you.
Be better for your family, and yourself.
Become a mentor; there is no greater achievement.