For most people, your career will be your biggest investment. Investing in your career is truly an investment in yourself. With a 4 year bachelor degree, you will have the potential to likely earn $2-3+ million dollars over the course of your career. I have learned a number of things early in my career, often the hard way, which is sometimes painful.
The best way to get off to a good financial start after college is to invest in yourself and your career. Starting to earn income can open up doors for investing in stocks, real estate, and potentially your own business. Below is a compilation of learnings from both my own experience and by talking with others:
- Learn what you are good at, and what you do and don’t like. Volunteer for different types of work and projects to gain this experience
- Focus on your strengths and leverage them to cover areas of weakness. If you are good at facilitating and weak on analysis type of work, use your strength to get results, while learning or getting experience in area of weakness.
- While there are people who might have more impressive resumes or attended more prestigious colleges than you, remember it is non-resume items that can set you apart, including being on time, work ethic, being reliable, follow-up, and attention to detail.
- If you complain about a business process or a decision, have an idea on how to make things better, or at least be willing to offer suggestions. Better yet, volunteer to lead a meeting or event to resolve the issue. It is good to be seen as part of the solution vs. continuing the existing problem.
- It is better to find ways to work together with someone from a different department versus finding differences and dig into adversarial positions. I personally had an instance where an individual told me the only reason he was attending my meeting was “my manager told me to go and I don’t want to be here”. After working on a problem with the individual and not focusing on the departmental differences, we were able to make progress on the problem.
- It is good to look ahead for the future of your career, but don’t do so at the expense of doing poorly at your current role. In other words, do well at your current role even if you don’t enjoy it. Your first job or two will open up future opportunities and be a showcase for your skills and potential.
- Work is stressful enough as it is. Don’t confront someone over something trivial for the sake of only proving you are right. Ask yourself if the confrontation and potential ramifications are worth it for the big picture. If the issue truly is a big issue, that is different.
- Be open with your manager. I have found it much better when I have a good, candid relationship with my manager. Tell your manager what you want to work on, tell your dreams, and your fears. Have your manager be your champion vs. just managing you.
- Ask yourself what you want to be known for, your brand image, if you will. Do you want to be known as the “go-to person”? the “technical expert”? …or as the “complainer”? the “lazy person”?
- I can’t believe I am typing this, but yes hygiene and “human behaviors”. Please shower or bathe and use deodorant! Don’t overuse cologne, perfume, or air fresheners. If you workout before work or during lunch and sweat, do everyone a favor and take a quick shower! Sadly, this is true….I worked with someone who liked to show off his burping (and other end) acumen. Once again, what do you want to be known for?
- Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask your manager for feedback and for training opportunities. The training could be both at work but could also be opportunities such as getting a MBA or a professional certification.
Do you have anything that you have learned early in your career? Please share in the comments.