For a few days, I have pondered sharing my thoughts about being a young professional with other young professionals. Not many pieces advising young professionals are written by their peers, so it was easy to conclude that this was worth the effort. I’ll be straightforward – my advice is based on my limited experiences and learning from mentors and books. Feel free to keep what you like, and discard what you don’t.
Here goes – some advice to a young professional, from another young professional.
Learn. Whether you’re an Engineer, a Front Desk Officer, or a Sales person – your first few jobs are huge opportunities to learn about yourself, about the world of work, and about what excites you (and what doesn’t). What you learn will be more important twenty years from now than what you earn. Never stop learning. Learn on the job. Learn from others. Reflect. Read. Watch TED Videos. Attend short courses. Learn!
Contribute. Add value – more than is expected from you. Apart from helping you feel great and confident, you’ll be well placed to ride any unforeseen waves. It’s difficult to be let go if you’re pulling more than your weight, and it’s easier to move on if you have solid results under your belt. Either way, you win. Beyond routine tasks, determine how to exceed expectations in your current job, and just do it!
Save. Delay gratification, but don’t become miserly. Many of us get our salaries, and then pay Telcos, friends that sold us stuff, Mechanics, Relaxation Bars – but never pay ourselves! All that hard work, and nothing stays with you? Pay yourself first! Set aside a portion of your pay to invest and exploit opportunities – no matter how little. Spend what is left afterwards. Make budgets. Leverage compound interest. Setup escrow accounts. Prepare for rainy days.
Explore. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life. Many successful people did not follow a linear path to greatness. They had growth spurts and delays, and made pivots that seemed haphazard to observers. Rather than lock yourself into a career path, evaluate opportunities as they appear – considering your skills and values. Plan to adapt – without straying from what matters to you. Winning careers are in permanent beta, always a work in progress.
Network. Albeit clichéd, don’t underrate networks. I don’t mean weak networks built by treating people like collectibles. I mean mutually beneficial relationships with peers, juniors, seniors, and mentors. These relationships help shape who you are and who you become. Healthy networks provide opportunities, information, and recommendations. Even acquaintances should remember you positively. Empathize and help. Don’t keep score. Build genuine relationships.
Compete, but only with yourself. It is pointless to compare yourself with peers. You come from different backgrounds, have different values, and are headed in different directions. Don’t waste time being jealous of anyone. Become the best you can be, rather than try to meet standards others have set. Push yourself a little harder and a little farther every day. Never settle for less.
Love. Love is wired into humanity. We fall in love so effortlessly and naturally – that it seems we were made for love. So, I ask that you love – deeply and sincerely: your parents, siblings, friends, enemies, stray dogs, scratching cats, and homeless strangers. Love. And give, because you love. It falls to us to try to heal the world, to make it a better place for every one of us. Be kind to the less privileged among us. It often doesn’t cost a lot to make a huge difference in another life. Try a little tenderness.
Live. Very importantly – live. Don’t be so busy trying to get ahead that you don’t stop to appreciate the little pleasures of life. You work so hard – you deserve to play hard! Scream. Laugh. Cry. Watch the sun set. Look for horses in the clouds. Travel. Take care of your body – you’ve got just one. Make a bucket list. Do something that scares you once in a while. Never lose your sense of wonder. You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.
I hope you dance.
Image via TimesLive
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