5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting my Career

When I started in the workforce, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was just hoping for a paycheck decent enough to provide shelter and cheese to add to my bread and water budget. I worked while attending college so I was used to going to work every week before I graduated. When I finally landed my first “real” job working in an office I was so happy make more than $7.30hr that I didn’t really care to ask any futuristic questions. Heck, I was (in my mind) lucky I even got the chance to get hired considering I had ZERO experience. 

Here’s what I learned.

1. Nobody is doing you any favors. When I landed my first job, I was so grateful my boss gave me a chance. Little did I know, he was getting great value for little pay. He would continue to allow me to work tirelessly without any increase as long as I allowed. I learned I’m worth more (granted it took me 2 1/2 years to get it) than that. I brought a fresh perspective and great problem-solving techniques learned throughout my life. He received the benefit of that for years before I realized my worth. Just because you are new to an industry or organization, doesn’t mean you have no value to add. 

2. There is no “right way” to do it. You will often change your mind, change your opinion on things that will cause you to change course in your career. That is perfectly okay. Give yourself permission to grow. You don’t have to do things the way everyone expects you to. You have the right to make decisions based on your curiumstances and priorities any time you need to. 

3. Saying “Yes” too soon is can be detrimental. When you become good at your work, people will begin to recognize your greatness and offer you new opportunities. It’s a compliment and confirmation of your hard work, but it can also be a grave mistake if not evaluated carefully before saying yes. Every opportunity that comes your way may not be the right opportunity for you. Think about what you want your future to look like. Does this new opportunity blend well with your lifestyle, goals and values? 

4. Up is not the only way. Often “climbing the corporate ladder” can be the ideal thing to do when starting out in your career, but I’ve found the most valuable and strategic way to become well-rounded and knowledgable within your industry is to make lateral moves. You will need to know what is happening to your left and to your right if you intend on becoming a great leader within your industry or organization. Colleagues and subordinates will more likely respect and follow your lead if they feel you understand what they do. 

5. Know who you are and what you stand for. On your journey to career success, it is vital you are clear about your personal desires, integrity boundaries and what you are willing or not willing to do to get ahead. It takes a great deal of confidence and courage to stand your ground when presented with situations that do not align with your values. If you’re not certain about who you are, you’ll find yourself in compromising positions that may negatively impact your reputation and ruin valuable relationships. 

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