I had the privilege last week to speak to a group of young professionals in my community who volunteer to support the work of Habitat for Humanity. They had asked that I share about 15 minutes of material that might be useful or motivational to the members of this group. As I thought about what to share, I decided to try to share a few lessons I’d picked up along my career journey. So, I made a list of the things that I would, in hindsight, have loved to been told when I was early in my career. Here is the list I shared:
- Pay attention to your passions and follow them. Explore while you are young and figure out what you love to do. Then, commit to that. Otherwise, you’ll end up like so many others who allowed someone else to decide their career path for them until one day they wake up and realize they hate their job but are so dependent upon it that they feel helpless to take a new path.
- Be greedy about gathering experience and learning. Building know-how and experience is like investing in your talent account. The earlier you invest, the faster it grows because knowledge and experience compound, just like money does over time. Raise your hand and say yes a lot.
- Invest in relationships. Make time to get to know people and learn how you can help them succeed. Collect connections and relationships with great people and care for them. These relationships will make all the difference in your career over time.
- Get involved. Being an active participant in your community and company is not only good for the soul, it’s a great way to build experience and expand the network. If you want the opportunity to do cool projects and try things beyond what they will let you do in your job, go volunteer for a not-for-profit. If you have passion for the cause, a little talent, and the willingness to do some work, you’ll be amazed by what they will give you to work on.
- Take risks now. Extraordinary careers are not built upon safety. If you dream of working abroad, do it now. If you want to move up quickly, take some gambles and get in over your head in your career. Early in your career is the easiest time to take risks because recovery from failure is pretty quick. The older you get, the harder it will get to start taking risks. Gamble now so that you’ll get smarter about knowing which risks to take down the road.
- Think bigger. I’m a pretty big thinker and dreamer, and yet, I’ve had several people throughout my life tell me that my only limitation was my own ability to think bigger. As young professionals, we have the gift of optimism and naivety so we don’t know why something shouldn’t work. If you can imagine it and you believe it’s possible, it probably is. Think big, and then push a step or two beyond that.