I’ve spent the better part of my career matching people to jobs, which is ironic considering that when I started in the industry it was from pure, dumb luck. My resume wouldn’t have even been looked at long enough to be laughed at. And now here I am, telling people just starting out the things I wish I’d known.
But at the same time, some of my views have changed in some unfortunate ways. My 21 year old self could teach the 36 year old me a thing or two as well. Here are a few tidbits that I wish I’d known then, and some gems I used to know that I wish I’d held onto.
If I’d only known then…
- Education is great, but experience is better. Sure, we all say in our job requirements that we want a college degree. But that degree without experience is like a hot fudge sundae without the spoon – tasty, but not practical. So if you’re looking to enter the job market in the next 2 to 3 years, start thinking about internships now. The time spent will pay dividends in helping your resume stand out.
- Being good at what you do is only half the battle. It will keep you employed forever, but won’t get you ahead. What will get you promoted is being liked. Don’t underestimate the social aspect of your career. I know many more people in the executive ranks who are incompetent but charismatic than those who are talented and dull.
- Like it or not, you’re a grown up. It took me longer than I’d like to admit before I started really seeing and talking to people 20, 30, or 40 years older than me as people instead of some superior, mysterious super-race. I may call recent grads “kids” behind their backs, but you can’t view yourself that way. And it doesn’t have to be an age thing – sometimes seniority and status are just as intimidating as age, if not more. You have to work through it and treat people as peers. Trust me – your first boss doesn’t want to be talked to like your third grade teacher.
If I only knew now…
- If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it. I knew this when I pursued my undergraduate degree in Musical Theater, moved to New York to make it on Broadway, and scrounged for 7 years as a struggling but unreasonably happy actor. As I’ve gotten older and adopted new responsibilities, both financial and personal, it’s been easy to forget that I always wanted to work to live, not live to work. There have been times in my professional life that more money, status, and influence were the driving forces in my decisions. I haven’t always followed the path that just sounded like more fun. And I’ve lived to regret it.
- Make time for yourself. I work a lot of hours at the office, and log almost as many hours being Daddy. Naturally some other aspects of life have fallen by the wayside. Sure, I can’t go out socially like I did years ago – and frankly I don’t want to. But even in your busiest and most stressful times it’s important to remember your friends, your hobbies, your joys outside of work. Jobs come and go but the rest of it, if you’re lucky, is life-long. Your relationships are like your teeth – take care of them and they’ll take care of you.
- It’s just money. I’ve been living in the same home for many years. It’s the only one I’ve ever owned, and I bought it when I had was just starting out in my career and making $42,000 per year. My tax bracket has changed considerably since then, but I somehow don’t feel considerably richer. Granted, plenty of my take-home pay goes into various savings mechanisms, but it still doesn’t feel as different as I expected it to. My clothes may have better labels and my TV is a lot bigger, but everything isn’t easier. I’m still a fan of happy hour, 2 for 1 specials, and Chinese take-out. Everything else is just gravy, so don’t go too crazy keeping up with the Jonses.
I’m sure you’ve heard at least some of this before; I sure had. But sometimes it’s useful to think about the lessons you’ve learned. And the ones you wish you had.