Every week, we scour Quora to provide readers with a question to pique your professional curiosity and expand your vocational knowledge. This week, we turn to the all-too-familiar question, “What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you were starting out?”
(Photo Credit: @boetter/Flickr)
Or, to put it another way, what are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?
Pasha Sadri, Polyvore Co-founder (Numbers 1 – 6)
1. “Small actions compound.”
Sadri encourages professionals to be careful not to make “small basic mistakes” over and over in their careers. Seemingly insignificant errors, if frequent, can add up and ruin your reputation down the line. As Sadri states, “Trust is a fragile thing and the sooner people can trust you, the faster they’ll give you more responsibility.” He provides a few key pointers to help prevent small snafus from sabotaging your career:
* Be on time (always) or early (better).
* Spend extra time reviewing your work before you hand it to the boss.
* Make your work easy for others to understand (good structure/footnotes/formatting).
* Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks, even if there is no apparent benefit to you
2. “Rising tide lifts all boats.”
“Your career is a boat and is at the mercy of the tides.” What Sadri is trying to emphasize is that when the economy is good, careers are good. When the economy is bad, careers are crap (or that other four letter word that starts with an “s”). So, don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you need or want to be in your career today because “we’re all in the same boat.”
Sadri drives the concept home with this Sheryl Sandberg quote:
“When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
3. “Seek opportunity where the outcome is success or failure. Nothing in between.”
Seek out opportunities where you will learn the most in the shortest amount of time. Go after challenging jobs that scare the you-know-what out of you, because “[y]ou don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen.”
4. “Career tracks and meritocracies don’t exist.”
“Your career is not a linear, clearly defined trajectory. It will be messy and will move more like a step function.”
5. “You’ll only be known for a few things. Make those labels count.”
Make sure you’re known for your positive attributes and contributions and not by what you lack. The business world is a small world and word travels fast, so ensure that what’s being said about you is all positive. Work hard, do your best, don’t gossip, don’t gloat, and, most importantly, help others when you can.
6. “Nurture and protect your network and your network will nurture and protect you.”
Sadri emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy network of professionals. He stresses, “Your network will be one of the biggest drivers of your success.” Use social media and in-person meetings to stay connected to the individuals that you work with because you never know when, where, or how you’ll run into them again.
Jane Chin, Ph.D., Managing Partner at MSL International
7. “Sometimes you have to toe the line until you gain enough power (rank, authority) to change the lines.”
Chin suggests that if “[y]ou want to change something big/cultural within the organization,” then “[w]ait until you have the right power level to act, especially if you don’t have allies above your pay-grade.” You never want to be “that guy” in the corporation who doesn’t recognize or abide by boundaries and thinks it’s his way or the highway. The corporation was doing just fine before you got there, and it will do just fine without you there, so take your “two cents” and save it for when you gain a bit more respect and rank in the company.
Michael O. Church, Functional Programmer
8. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Try and be realistic when it comes to burning the midnight oil because, as Church points out, “[w]orking 80-hour weeks will catch up with you.” Be sure to enjoy your life while you’re building your career, otherwise, you may find yourself sitting at the top of the corporate ladder a successful, yet lonely person.
Pete Gibson, Sales Development Specialist at Kimball Midwest
9. “Treat money as a secondary to what you love doing.”
Said simply, do what you love and love what you do because, yes, an attractive potential salary is all fine and dandy when you’re signing the dotted line, but money means nothing when you dread your job and are miserable. When people find occupations doing what they love, the money usually follows.
10. “Why climb the corporate ladder when you can own one?”
That seems like a good note to end on.
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