Career Advice I’d Like to Give to My 20-Year Old Self

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and give  yourself a little hint of what’s to come?  Perhaps give yourself a little heads up on key turning points in your life that seem like a simple choice between options but is in reality a pivotal moment?   Wouldn’t it be nice to sit your younger self down and share some of the wisdom you’ve gained over the years.

If I had the chance, below are five things I’d like to tell my younger self.

1. Trust yourself more.  Parents, teachers, friends, supervisors, colleagues … there are so many people willing and eager to give advice, lots and lots of advice on what career path to follow, what jobs to apply for, what jobs to avoid.  This doesn’t mean ignoring the advice; it means weighing that advice against your own dreams, against your gut instinct and against your own personal reality.

2. Create  your own definition of success.  It took me quite a while to figure out that for me, success wasn’t defined by money, a title or an office with a door.  It wasn’t until I hit the magic mid-30’s, that I was able to clearly articulate what success meant to me, and with that knowledge, it became much easier to decide if an opportunity was right for me or not.

3. Manage your time. Oh, I wish I’d learned this one sooner!  The extra stress I put on myself because I put too many things off to the last minute; the opportunities missed because I could always get to it later; the merely “ok” work completed because I’d over-committed my time.

4. Take care of yourself.  I remember the day I broke down in tears on the job over a trivial issue.  It was day 21 without a day off.  I was holding down two jobs and going to school.  Between lack of sleep, grabbing some pretty poor meals on the run and the demands of school and work, I hit the wall.  I knew a change had to be made and I quit one of the jobs.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson then, but it took quite a few more years to figure out that I was doing myself and those around me a favour when I made sure to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health.

5. Being respected is more important than being liked.  I spent too many years trying to be liked.  I agreed with everyone or more honestly, pretended to agree with everyone.  I didn’t stand up for myself; I said “yes” when I should have said “no”; I hid my talents, my knowledge and my skills so that I wouldn’t come across as a know-it-all;  I let others take credit for my hard work. Usually standing strong, being confident, honest and assertive leads to being liked and respected, but if only one is possible, go for respect.

Of course, knowing my younger self, I’m not sure I would have listened to me!

What career advice would you give your 20 year-old self if you had the chance?

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