What Would I Tell My 25-Year Old Self Entering the Job Market Today?
Earlier this year I celebrated another year around the sun and I started reflecting on my professional journey. Research says that the average worker will spend one-third of their lives in a place of business. I believe that if you are going to work, you might as well make it a fantastic experience.
Everything that I am about to tell you is from a stream of consciousness while I was drinking. Yes, I know that you are shocked. I mixed a strong beverage as I was starting to write—Jarritos Lime Soda with all-natural Simply Peach Juice. Don’t worry, I will not get behind the wheel after finishing it off. I am laughing so hard right now. I hope you are as well.
- See your career as a portfolio. Inside it resides your brilliance, energy, and time. You will invest all three into a place of business. Every quarter, assess whether your career portfolio is growing with challenging work, character-building moments, and a fearless leader who is empathic and holds you accountable. At the end of the year, do you need to rebalance your career portfolio by seeking a stretch assignment, joining a new project, or identifying mentors who can expand your perspective?
- Be intentional in 1:1 meetings with your leader. Always have three questions or agenda items to discuss with them.
- Schedule a career investment discussion on a quarterly basis with your leader. The mid-year review is too late. You need to know what’s working for you and what’s not working. Don’t allow setbacks to fester or become a snowball of emotion. Ninety days is a great way to get a pulse check on where you stand in the business.
- Be a Slashie. Thank you, @Trevor_Stuurman, for this brilliant insight. Seven years ago, I was in South Africa attending an event for a magazine and they sat me next to Trevor. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him what he did. He said with no hesitation, I am a “Slashie.” I stared at him like a deer staring at headlights. He said that he was a digital photographer/fashion designer/computer programmer. He showed me his Instagram page, which had 10,000 followers. Today, he has almost 200K and has been recognized by Forbes Africa 30 under 30 and TIME’s Next Generation Leader. I went all the way to South Africa to get set free in my mind. Be multidimensional. Never allow anyone to put you in a box.
- Take an overseas assignment. Pick up your family and move to a foreign country. Traveling and working in another country is one of the greatest teachers and ways to grow. It forces you to find that second gear to learn, unlearn, and relearn how to be human. Uncover new ways to build relationships through food, music, and culture. Discover why working through language barriers is critical to resilience.
- Use all of your vacation time. Enough said.
- Raise your hand early and often to take on work that no one else wants to do. This is how you establish your personal brand and become known as an expert.
- Create a circle of colleagues who are outside your religion, race, or sexual orientation. Get to know them by listening through a judge-free lens.
- Understand financial intelligence personally and professionally. How does the company or business make money? How are bonuses and incentives given out? How do they decide about stock options and a potential equity stake in the business? Decide to automate your money. What you don’t see, you don’t spend.
- Float your resume in the open market every three years and go on interviews. See what your fair market value is and discover what skills companies are looking for in talent.
- The way up is down. Always be available to serve someone else for whom you will become in the process.
- Find a sponsor. I’ve discovered in life that the individuals who move ahead didn’t have fancy degrees from Ivy League schools or were born on third base. They simply had a sponsor—an individual who decided to leverage their brand name to help someone else advance. I know what you’re thinking. How? Be known for doing excellent work. Performance is the price you pay for unsolicited sponsorship.
- Thank God every day for breath, health, family, friends, and business/career. Life is never promised. Here today and gone tomorrow. Pray and always ask for direction.
Well, the mixed drink is wearing off now. I will stop here and invite you to contemplate these 13 free-floating ideas. I trust that they will spark you in your journey.