Career Advice I Would Give My 21-Year-Old Self

This summer my newsfeed has been gradually filling up with memes, congratulations and ‘think pieces’ about the lead up to and the receiving of GCSE, A-Level and university results.

My favourite of which being the annual sharing of the below. Which contains an overused yet poignant point.

After shaking off the thank-God-exam-days-are-over feeling I wondered if my own career story contained any pearls of wisdom worth sharing. Well, probably none akin to the notorious climb of his Highness Pitbull, but I reckon I’ve learnt a thing or two which in hindsight, may have saved me time and tears.

1. Everyone gets nervous and everyone goes red.

Yup. Sheryl Sandberg… Beyoncé… your boss. At some point they all get ‘the rash’, blush, feel sick before a presentation and beat themselves up about their flaws. Don’t do that. Give yourself a break, accept the normality of being nervous and get over it.

2. You will never end up in the job you set out to do.

In fact the job you end up in may not even exist now. Who would have thought you could be paid to be a Social Media Editor or a Community Manager?

3. Use the happiness monitor to measure success.

This, I can attribute to my dear mother. It’s the simplest but most important measurement of success that I can ever share. If you wake up and dread going to work every day, quit. If you are happy more often than not and feel excited – you’re onto a good thing.

4. Take the help.

Don’t be so proud you can’t bring yourself to ask for help. Take every opportunity offered to you and in the early years of your career, bite the hands off friends/connections/colleagues who offer to help you.

5. Colleagues are the same people you went to school with.

That means, they don’t change. I’m sorry. But hey, you survived school and you will survive work. You might just have to find more mature ways to navigate working alongside The Bully, The Idea Thief and The Queen/King of Passive Aggressive.

6. Take a risk now.

There will always be a risk involved but when you don’t have a mortgage/children what are you really risking? Just DO IT!

7. Listen to everyone but only take advice from a few.

Learning how to assess the motives behind advice quickly, will be your greatest tool. I have had to bite my tongue on a number of occasions when someone, perhaps well meaning, has given me the worst advice ever. Clue: It’s usually dripping with their own insecurities and says more about them than you.

8. Don’t be a dick.

Everyone remembers the person that made them feel good. They also remember the person that went out of their way to make them feel stupid. (Note: so did everyone else in the room)

9. When you can, pick your boss.

When you know yourself, you will know the kind of person that will inspire and push you. Once, during an event when I wanted to ask a question to my idol Sheryl Sandberg, I lost my nerve. My CEO shouted across three tables ‘GET YOUR HAND UP!’ and when I half stood up, ‘STAND UP’. I love her.

Equally, if in an interview you spend two hours chatting and brainstorming – this is probably the person you want to work for.

10. Know your worth!

No one will want to pay you top dollar because, well, why would they? Learn to know your worth and ask for it.

You also need to learn to weigh up the benefits of career progression – if you need to take a job on a reduced salary to get where you want to be in the long term then take it whilst you can.

11. Learn from your mistakes.

This will take a while to get right. Reflect and remember you are the person in control of your career.

12. Enjoy it.

Strive to do something that you enjoy. Have fun working out what that is and make that the Holy Grail.

12. Remember, it’s only work…

That’s not to say it isn’t important or that you can find meaningful work, but you will never, ever say – ‘I wish I had worked longer hours/missed my mums birthday’.

13. No one else can be you. That is your niche.

It’s cliché but it’s true.

14. Remember that someone else’s failure does not equal your success

Even if they have clobbered you over the head to get where they are and then mess up big style. Don’t feel too smug (well, feel smug for like, a minute – just don’t tell anyone)

15. Don’t be a wimp.

Stick up for yourself, be brave, give it a go and be kind to yourself.

First published on the Huffington Post.

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