10 Important Career Lessons Most People Learn Too Late In Life

Good morning, Highlanders. Welcome to another Career Thursday’s blog post. Every week, I post something that is relevant to your job search or professional development. This article speaks true to recent alumni as well as more experienced professionals. Let me know your thoughts and what you’d like to hear more about! This post was originally published on LinkedIn by Bernard Marr and Influencer on LinkedIn on September 18, 2016. As always, I will be inputting my comments in italics. 

Keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone. That’s what a lot of us were taught to believe about work. But is it really the best strategy?

I find that people often take this sort of advice to heart — and then learn too late in their careers that there’s more to life (and success) than just keeping busy.

I’ve gathered up my top 10 lessons you should take to heart now, before it’s too late!

  1. Life is short. Here’s the thing: Life is too short to put up with a job you hate, a boss who demeans you, or a company with no soul.  Many people convince themselves that they can put up with a job or career situation that makes them unhappy because they need the income, because they don’t know if they can find another job, or for some other reason. But the truth is none of us knows how long we have on this earth, and spending too much of it in a bad situation will only make you miserable and regretful. If you’re in this situation, take a step today — no matter how small — toward a better situation. *When you’re unhappy in a job, the best time to look for a new job is when you still have one. You don’t want to get to the point where you hate your job so much that the hate leaks into your job interview making your new employer wonder about your character as a person. The job search process can take 3-6 months depending on your industry, so you will want to start this as soon as you see a job posting that meets your needs. Dig deep to see what you want for this next move and then go through the resume re-write process (I do this every summer whether or not I’m looking for a new job), contact any references you may want and peruse the job boards of your choosing. You want your enthusiasm to stick around and if it’s going away, it might be time to start looking or at least putting feelers out for your next adventure. 
  2. Social networks matter. You might think that networking events are dull, that it’s boring to chat with coworkers around the watercooler, or that you’re simply a born introvert, but study after study confirms that social networks are vital to our success. In fact, the most successful people tend to have the broadest and most diverse social networks. The more time and effort you put into nurturing your social networks, the more successful you are likely to be. *This doesn’t mean keeping your relationships online, it’s about fostering the relationships that you have with previous supervisors as well as lateral colleagues. You never know who the person in the cubicle next to you knows when it’s time to start looking for a new job. When you meet new people, the discussion of work will always come up, that’s American culture. Be sure to ask questions when you become interested in someone’s career path. You might even be able to tour their office or do a job shadow for a day and meet some other folks around the company. Keeping this relationship is where the work comes in. Sending regular emails or having coffee a few times a year to keep up with each other is necessary to managing a professional relationship.
  3. Sacrificing your health for success or wealth isn’t worth it. Many driven, successful people have a hard time creating work/life balance and can end up burning out or developing serious health problems from stress and overwork. The truth is, it’s much easier to stay healthy than to heal from a problem or disease — and no amount of success or money can replace your health. Don’t take your health for granted and take steps to mitigate stress that could cause problems later. *Remember to take time for yourself. Take breaks during the day, take your lunch away from your desk and have hobbies or hang out with friends when you’re not at work. You are not your job, you are you and defining yourself by your job is what most people do but it’s not always the reality. I don’t want to be my job, I want to be me. Reflect on who you are at your core and find a career that speaks to that core value you have. 
  4. None of the best moments of your life will take place looking at a screen. In our connected world, it’s tempting to let all the little screens we have access to dictate our lives. But you’ll never reach the end of your life wishing you’d spent more time checking email on your phone. Disconnect regularly and experience real life. *This doesn’t have to be days or weeks at a time but set time aside for your family where there’s a “no phone zone” or you eat dinner without the TV on. Pick something that works for you and your family and then stick to it. Believe me, there’s nothing going on outside of that moment that is more important than the conversations you’re having with those people. 
  5. Never stop learning. With the rate at which technologies are changing today, if you decide that you are “done” learning, you will be left behind within a matter of years, if not sooner. The idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is blatantly false, and you will never wake up and regret having invested in your mind by learning something new. *I’ve heard a lot within the last few years about reverse mentoring where a more experienced professional will be the mentee of a “green” professional to learn all the latest technologies and understand “what the kids are doing these days,” or at least that’s what I say. We need to be relevant in our industries and without consulting younger millennials or Gen Z professionals, we’re all going to fall behind the times. We don’t necessarily need to implement every trend but at least knowing about it and understanding it is key. 
  6. Diversify. Hand in hand with learning, if you stick to only doing what you know, or what you are good at, you may quickly find that you’re only good at one thing. We need to be agile, nimble, and interested in many different things. Otherwise, you could get stuck in a job or career you don’t love, or that goes with the times. Think of the taxi driver threatened by Uber or the customer service person replaced by a chatbot. *There are many online resources that have certification programs for users that are either free or for a small fee. This is where you can learn a new skill and keep up with the growing trends in your industry. An example is Lynda.com. There are also community colleges, extension programs at universities and community programs within your city. Staying relevant in your skill set will help you land that new job quicker than someone who is stuck in their ways, never wanting to change. Be the change maker in your organization. 
  7. You can go fast alone, but you can go farther together. In other words, teamwork makes the dream work. Many people claim they don’t like to work in teams, but the ability to work well in teams is vital if you want to succeed. The idea of the solo auteur is a myth; every big idea needs a team to make it happen. *Very rarely do we create success on our own. There are always teams of people doing behind the scenes work to everyone’s success. Whether it’s within a class project at school or on a team at work, you can grow this skill set. Are some people more difficult to work with than others? Yes, you will always find challenges when working in teams but the point is to be able to delegate or take delegation with grace, ask for help when needed and get the project completed together. 
  8. Worrying doesn’t achieve anything. The antidote to fear and anxiety is action and hustle. If you’re wasting time because you’re afraid to pursue an idea, speak up, or are worried what others will think of you, you won’t achieve your goals. If you push through the worry and the fear, however, and take action, you’ll almost always find that you were worried about nothing. *Make that to-do list and start cranking through it. I find that even if I put a list together with semi-silly tasks like write an email you’ve been dreading for weeks, I start to feel silly about not completing that task sooner and then I get to cross it off. Sitting around not doing anything will just make you want to worry more. Take action on your career, on your job search and get it done. I always used to tell my students, “You will never get a job that you don’t apply for. At least if you apply, you’re giving yourself a chance.” Go for it, and good things will start happening. 
  9. Failure is not an end. If you give up when you fail, you’ll never learn anything. Instead, look at failure as an opportunity, as the beginning of a new journey. If you do, you’re much more likely to try again and succeed at something else. *I don’t like the word “failure” or “mistake” or “waste of time” these words have very negative connotations. There are only learning opportunities for us as humans. If something doesn’t go right, acknowledge it and then learn from it, how would you do it differently next time? What would you like to pass down as a legacy to the next person to take on this task? Write it down and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. 
  10. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. So many people put off their happiness; they think, “I’ll be happy when I get that job, when I lose that weight, when I’m in a relationship, when I’m out of a relationship…” and so on. But we can choose to be happy.  Happiness is a habit and a choice. No matter what your situation, if you can approach it with an attitude of happiness, you will be more successful. *You are the source of your own happiness. I think it’s good to also have an attitude of gratitude, especially at this time of year when people reflect on what they are grateful for in their lives. When you give thanks, about your job or your life in general you start to notice the good things that are happening rather than the negative, which allows you to be happier. I’ve started writing lists at work about why I love my job, especially when I’m having a particularly challenging day. This really helps put things in perspective and allows me to know that it will all be okay. 

What other advice would you add to this list? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management, technology and Big Data. If you would like to read my future posts then please click ‘Follow‘ and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebookSlideshare, and The Advanced Performance Institute.

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