As this new year dawned, I was reminiscing on the fact that I now had more than a decade worth of experience in the IT industry. Back when I started my career, I had a very strong notion of what a successful career would look like at the 10-year mark. As I look back, I can only shake my head at the simplicity and naivety of that idea. So, here are the things that I would tell the 21-year-old me as she started her career :
1. The ability to learn is the only true skill
The technology that you work on today, and slave to master would be obsolete in a couple of years. The processes that you painstakingly master and perfect would be irrelevant in your next project. All that would stay with you would be the willingness to learn from mistakes and the eagerness to try something new. And in every team, you work with and in every interview you attend, this would be the key differentiator.
2. You drive your career
You will have the privilege of working with some really great and not so great managers. Great managers would help you thrive and act as a ladder to success. The bad managers would be neutral at best or actively hinder your growth at the worst. However, the good news is that you always have a choice in how your career pans out. Do not leave the direction of your career in the hands of fate. Being self-aware and intentional is the only way to get ahead in life and in your career. Blaming the stars or your superior and drowning in self-pity does not help. If a role is not a good fit, exit.
3. Empathy is a super power
A 21-year-old has life figured out. And then life happens. People have different life experiences. We can never truly know what drives another person. Always give people the benefit of doubt and believe that they are doing the best they can within the constraints they have been given. Yes, even the not so great manager is doing his best. Try to understand the opposing point of view. Especially when you don’t identify or agree with it.
4. Pay it forward
You are only where you are because people took the time to share their time, knowledge and guidance. Some days you could only survive because someone else thought that you were good enough . Knowledge should not be hoarded like toilet paper in a pandemic. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your knowledge. Be generous with Praise. Always pay it forward.
5. Networking is not a bad word
Try to seek out like-minded people. Network with colleagues, managers and peers. It’s only called politics when the other person is promoted. Keep your ears to the ground and keep yourself updated with what’s happening around you.
6. Its a marathon not a sprint
Pace yourself. There is no point in getting burned out. With any luck, you will have a long career. Temporary setbacks don’t really matter in the large scheme of things. Enjoy your work and your life. Take a few detours and experiment with side hustles. You would still get your big break. Also, don’t forget that a job is just a part of your life. Don’t let it define you.
So, there you have it. If you are just starting out in a career, I hope that you have a blast and enjoy your job .. Cheers !!!
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