The career advice I’d give to my younger self

If I could go back in time and re-live my professional career, here’s what I would advise my younger self to do.

Find work that you love doing and your career will be a breeze. Often, you may not find the perfect job, but if you look closely, there would be certain aspects of your job that enthuse you. Focus on those aspects and hone your skills so you could make a profession out of the parts you love.

Don’t hesitate to take risks. If you want to win big, you need to fight the big battles. And you don’t really know your capabilities until you put them to test. So, aim high and reach for the stars

Do not fear failure. Usually, what holds us back from pursuing our dreams is the fear of failure. What you need to do at such times, is to analyse the worst outcome. Ask yourself, ‘what is the worst that could happen?’ and you might realize that it is not so bad after all. If you really want something, go for it without fear.

Speak Up. You may be the smartest person in the room, but no one would know unless you speak up. Don’t ever hesitate to speak up. Voice your opinions and share ideas. Make your voice heard, for that is how you get visibility.

Visibility is key: Visibility is extremely critical to professional success. Your work might be top-notch, but in reality, work doesn’t speak for itself in the corporate world. You need to speak about your work, present it in the right forums and get attention for your contribution.

Your career is your responsibility. Do not expect your manager or your organization to take care of it. You need to think about your career, figure out where you want to go and then steer it in the right direction. Managing your career needs ongoing planning and effort and it is worth spending the time to shape it.

Ask and negotiate. Nothing gets handed to you on a platter. You need ask for the right roles, high-impact assignments, salary and growth. Remember this quote by Oprah Winfrey: “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for”. The worst that could happen is that you get refused for the current opportunity, but by asking, you ensure that you get considered for the next one.

Build a strong professional network. I cannot overemphasize the importance of networking in your career trajectory. The more the number of people that can vouch for you and sponsor you, the better are your chances for growth and success. Invest in building relationships not only at your workplace, but also with others in related professions.

Create a personal brand. Identify your strengths and leverage them to create a personal brand. You should be known as the expert or go-to-person for something — a particular domain or a skillset. You could do this by working on projects in that area, publishing whitepapers, blogging and speaking about it. Invest time and effort in building your brand both within and outside the organization and it will pay huge dividends.

Be a great communicator. Continue to hone your communication skills, as they are non-negotiable when it comes to professional growth. Public speaking and presentation skills are extremely critical as you aim to go up the career ladder.

Nothing beats self-confidence. The greatest weapon in your arsenal is self-confidence. You can build confidence by gaining expertise in your field, by honing your communication skills, by working on complex assignments and by dressing for success. Even if you sense nervousness within, project confidence and it will begin to come to you naturally. Your image is very critical too, hence you should always dress the part.

Find a mentor. Within your professional network, identify someone who can be a mentor to you. They need not be from the same organization. Anyone with experience, who can be a sounding board and advise you, can act as a mentor. Usually, people with experience also have senior connects, hence can vouch for you, sponsor you or create opportunities when required. And as you gain experience, do not forget to give back to someone else.

Pursue a hobby. While you might feel compelled to work overtime and put in long hours, it doesn’t help in the long run. Firstly, you will run out of steam and secondly, you’ll realize you did not have time to build a life outside of work. Hence, it is important to pursue a hobby that can help you relax and rejuvenate.

Move out of your comfort zone. Every once in a while, assess if you’ve settled into a comfort zone. And if you have, make a change immediately. Either change your role or the organization, take a foreign placement or build a new skillset. Comfort zones are dangerous and can impede your progress and growth. Hence, watch out and keep trying something new.

Let me sign off with a quote that has inspired me along my professional journey.

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream and how you handle disappointment along the way” — Robert Kiyosaki