You Are The Pilot Of Your Career
11:30 am, March 7th | by Beth Devin, Manilla.com
I regularly work with women and men who are just beginning a career in technology — they’ve been working professionally for a couple of years and the future looks bright. They often ask how I got started and why I made the choices I did. While I am the consummate list maker, I have never had a five-year career plan. However, I always try to look ahead and make conscious choices with regard to my professional development. There are a wide range of examples from big decisions, such as deciding to change jobs, relocate, or switch industries, to smaller decisions, such as learning a new skill, attending a conference, or wearing the blue pants or black skirt to the meeting. When I reflect on the twists and turns that are my career journey, I have few regrets. It’s been the right mix of intention and opportunity.
When Generation Y’ers ask my advice on how best to pilot their career, I typically share these tips:
1. Take Risks Early
You are only young once! Your financial obligations and personal commitments are most likely going to increase in the future as you advance in your career. Now is the time to take risks — start a company, relocate for an exciting opportunity, accept an ex-pat assignment, or take on a role that is completely different from your last job. When I accepted a position at Turner Broadcasting Systems, I moved my young family to Atlanta, changed industries, and took on a role that was completely new to me. It was a risky move but one that enabled me to “jump the curve,” adding a number of new skills and experiences to my resume.
2. Watch and Learn
When you are starting out, you should be in constant learning mode. Be a sponge and soak up as much as you can. Take advantage of any chance to work on different tasks and collaborate with new people. Overcome worries about not knowing how to do something. Each new experience is a fantastic opportunity to discover your strengths and learn more about yourself. Be ever-curious, ask questions and observe others. Make sure to learn from your mistakes. Solicit feedback on where you might improve. Maximize this time in your life.
3. Always a Professional
For many young people the word “professionalism” translates to conservative or stodgy. I’m here to say they are not the same. If you are interested in furthering your career, how you show up each day matters. This includes being on time, practicing good hygiene, dressing appropriately for your office environment, only calling in sick when you are actually sick, demonstrating that you care by doing your job well, and most important, living up to your word.
4. Check In With You
Are you excited about getting to work each morning? Are you ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead? Do you like the company and people with whom you work? If the answer is no, then it may be time to consider new options for the future. We can expect to spend 50 percent of our waking hours working, so it’s important to find an environment and a job that you enjoy — one that leverages your strengths and provides you the fuel to continue. We should never give up on our dreams and aspirations. Your first attempt may not work out. If you are doing everything you can to make the most of your current situation, but it’s not working, move on.
5. Every Resumé Tells A Story
At each juncture in your career, try to make conscious choices. Think it through before making a change — where will this lead? What will I learn? How does this next opportunity strengthen or add to my skill set? How long can I see myself at this company? It may not seem important at first, but hiring managers, recruiters and interviewers will assess you by the story that your resume tells. Usually, you won’t have the opportunity to fill in the blanks and explain each chapter. People understand that startups fail, companies reorganize, and not all environments and cultures are a fit. However, they will assume you were a participant and made each choice for a reason.
6. Build a Network
In today’s interconnected, digital world, you are never too young to start networking. Many people don’t think about investing in their network until they have a specific ask. Your network is an investment in the future and it takes time to develop. Make an effort to stay in touch with people you meet at work. Help others and return favors when you can. Send a personal thank you note. Most importantly, don’t burn bridges. Try to leave every situation on good terms (remember “always a professional”). It’s a small world and negative comments and interactions can come full circle. As a first step, set up your LinkedIn profile and connect with your colleagues. No better time than now!
Please comment below if you have tips to share with readers just starting to navigate their career.
Beth Devin is the chief technology officer of Manilla.com, a free, award-winning and secure service that helps consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. Get the chance to win $2,500 in cash when you take the Manilla Get It Together Challenge. Learn more here.