Career Advice I would give the Younger me if Time Travel becomes a Real Thing

1. Don’t follow your passion, do what you’re good at

Just because you enjoy doing something, doesn’t mean you’re good at it, or that people will be willing or able to pay you for it.

A more solid career approach is to figure out what you’re good at. It needs to be something that adds value to people’s lives, and something you enjoy and can see yourself doing long enough to make a difference. It also needs to be something that people are willing and able to pay for. Passion is cultivated and develops as the result of contributing to something meaningful.

Passion is cultivated and develops as the result of contributing to something meaningful.

Working for the creme de la creme of companies is great but having the right mentor is worth more than a great company could ever offer you. A good boss in a mediocre company will protect you and support you. A bad boss in a good company will frustrate and demoralize you. A good boss in a good company will unlock your potential.

3. Network with a purpose

Your network is your net worth but not all networks have the same value. Don’t network for the sake of it. Network both inside and outside of your company. Spend time building relationships. Get to know people in your field before you need something from them. Aim to build quality connections and relationships by focusing more on helping than on asking for help.

4. Beware of prioritizing money

Making money the number one priority may have you eventually selling your soul and cutting corners. You will be unhappy and unsatisfied because you will never make enough money. Money will start controlling you instead of the other way around. Do what you enjoy doing, and be great at it. Everything else will come.

Always keep your finger on the pulse. Listen to those who are in your target industry and listen to those who are on the outside looking in. The insiders have time and money-saving experiences. The outsiders are the disruptors who could turn your industry upside down, leaving the unprepared holding pink slips.

Moderate doses of feeling inadequate, a.k.a. imposter syndrome, can serve as motivation for improvement. They can be a powerful reminder that there’s a better version of yourself you ought to try to be. This reminder keeps you from being lulled into a false sense of complacency.

7. Numbers are not the only way to measure progress

Less can be more. If the opportunity to gain a new perspective and be exposed to new experiences that will broaden your skill set presents itself in the form of a pay cut, don’t dismiss it.

In the words of Viktor Frankl “don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Success chases masters. So master your craft and become so good that they can’t ignore you. Success will then start hunting you down.

9. There is no substitute for hard work

Who you know and what you know will only get you so far. Mastering your craft involves hard work and consistent dedication. Extreme results require extreme efforts. Moderation is usually just an excuse to be average.

“Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.” ~ Seth Godin

10. Build your career capital

Never stop seeking new knowledge. The only skill that promises to pay dividends in the future is your ability to expand your mind. If you want to make and continue to make an impact, succeed and feel accomplished you need to be a lifelong learner. Never settle for what you already know. Always be looking to build your career capital by expanding your knowledge, augmenting your skill set, solving problems and adding value.

11. Don’t outsource your success to your company

Sitting around and waiting for praise and promotions is not going to get you closer to your goals. Your employment has granted you a ticket to the table. Use it.

No job is objectively good or bad. It’s what you make of it. So make every opportunity and every role what you need it to be. Look for the next step, the next challenge or the next goal that is going to get you closer to your dreams. Volunteer for cross-functional projects. Volunteer for special projects, volunteer to be on committees and always look for ways to expand your skill set. It is not the job of any organization to make you a success. That responsibility falls squarely on your own shoulders.

12. Don’t get comfortable

“If you don’t change, you shall be removed from the competition. It’s not wrong if you don’t want to learn new things. However, if your thoughts and mindset cannot catch up with time, you will be eliminated.”

Life is competition. There’s a lot of talent out there that is working equally as hard and waiting for the spotlight to shift off you. If you get comfortable, you’re giving them the green light to take over.

13. Don’t let the past dictate your future

The past is something that we will never change, nor should we want to change it; because without it, we would not have learned the lessons we needed to learn. The past might have led you to where you are now, but it cannot reach out and hold you back unless you let it.

14. Know when it’s time to move on

Never sacrifice your own journey to be the captain on the bridge of a sinking career. Learn to tell when things are no longer working out. Restlessness is a good indicator that you’re ready to experience a new area of growth.

15. Always leave a position or department better than you found it.

You might not be in your ideal job and try as you might you’ve been unable to change things around. This is no excuse to underperform as you look for your exit. Everyone you meet is a potential employer or customer. Every task you complete is part of your portfolio. Always endeavor to make a positive impact in any position you hold.

16. Never assume that your career path is linear

Most people think of their career as a ladder. You come out of university, take a grad job of sorts and then start the endless climb to success. Life is far from linear so why should your career path be?

With an increasingly competitive job market sticking to a traditional linear career path could result in missed opportunities. The rate at which technology has been advancing means that there are many jobs that could not have existed just 10 years ago. So be bold, take risks and be open to different career options no matter how unconventional or surprising they might seem.

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