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Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting My Career

Reading 20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life by Leo Babauta inspired me to take a look back to twenties and starting to write. However, rather than referring to all the aspects of my life, I narrowed it down to my career.

I made my share of mistakes and I learned some lessons the hard way. There are some things that I wish I had known since my first year in University. Why then? Because I would have had time to get better prepared for the “real world”, prepared to become a “grownup”.

In my opinion, the contact with the real world comes for many of us only after graduating University. This is the moment when we are expected to be on our own, when we learn that the years of study grant you neither a good salary nor a job.

There are many things I wish I had known back then, but I listed below the things which may also apply to others who found themselves passing trough that stage. Would I had listened or followed this advice then…. I don’t know.

These are the main things I would tell myself if I could send a note to the 18 year old me:

  1. There is no such thing as the perfect job! Learn what things are the most important for you to find in a job and focus on those when appraising your current/potential job. Maybe you cannot figure it out from the start. It’s OK. Just keep learning about yourself. What makes you enter the state of flow? What makes a good day to be considered one? Every job has its downsides. What really matters it’s for the upsides to contain those factors you identified as being of high importance to you.
  2. Read more! Time spent on watching TV is a huge waste of time. Try reading instead. There are so many lessons to be learned out there! I don’t mean reading only books/articles on the field you study/would like to have a career in, but also those which challenges your thinking and imagination, helping your personal development.
  3. Find out what is happening in the real life! Translate this into getting more information regarding your possible/probable career path. Try to answer some questions:  Do you have a long term career goal? What about a short-term one? What job could you get after graduating from university? What would be the following step? Do you really know what that first job and your chosen career involve? Some things that could help you answering these questions: read blogs of those already in that sector, find job descriptions and job ads, try to meet and discuss with people already working in that field, ask them what they do, what you should know to do, etc.
  4. Get an early start! Maybe you can afford not having a job during college, but go get one anyway.  Not only does every experience represent an opportunity to learn, but experiencing with jobs during college could bring you a better understanding of your skills and motivation and get you prepared for the grownup world.
  5. Go for a new opportunity instead of leaving a job you dislike. Whilst the grass always seems greener on the other side, it may be just an illusion caused by you focusing mainly on the things that appear unbearable in your current situation.  Don’t make decisions based on a negative motivation, but on a positive one. What I suggest you to do: take a deep breath, clear you mind of frustration and put down all the good aspects of your current job and future opportunities that are likely to occur. Now evaluate whether the new job you were offered is a genuine opportunity for you or not.
  6. Use reason when considering a job offer. All things mentioned above apply. Furthermore, at this age, you tend to be impulsive and make decisions based on superficial and emotional factors and make less use of reason than necessary. I know that things may sound great sometimes, but don’t believe everything you are told and also listen to the opinions you don’t like to hear. Make use of your own brain: decode messages, facts and thoroughly analyze what you are offered.
  7. Asking what could you earn from a job in terms of knowledge (not cash!) helped you at the beginning of you career. Don’t change that!
  8. Keep learning! Try to learn as much as you can from your experiences. Whether you have failed or succeeded, there is something to learn form that. You may think that learning by doing things is enough and you may expect for others to teach you things. Conversely, you could take responsibility for your own personal and professional development and actively search for opportunities and sources to learn from. The latter is the approach I recommend. Be informed and updated on what is happening in your field: read books, blogs, engage in discussions with people you can learn from.

I would like to conclude this post by quoting the one that inspired me to write it:

All these mistakes you’re going to make, despite this advice? They’re worth it. My 18-year-old self would probably have read this post and said, “Good advice!” And then he would have proceeded to make the same mistakes, despite good intentions. I was a good kid, but I wasn’t good at following advice. I had to make my own mistakes, and live my own life. And that’s what I did, and I don’t regret a minute of it. Every experience I’ve had (even the tequila ones) have led me down the path of life to where I am today. I love where I am today, and wouldn’t trade it for another life for all the world.

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