So last week we pranked our intern Corley pretty good. As I mentioned in that post, we will miss Corley, but we’re happy that she got a great opportunity with an agency in Dallas. I was thinking of some career advice for Corley (doesn’t seem like 10 years ago that I was in her shoes) and I came up with some good “rules” for any recent grad about to enter the Rat Race.
Your first job is not your destiny – Your first job is just that, the first of many jobs you will have in your life. If you decided you don’t like your job or career field, it’s never too late to change.
Attitude matters – People recognize co-workers with a positive attitude and those people tend to get promoted much faster.
Always learn new skills – Every opportunity you have to learn a new skill (from copywriting to managing paid search campaigns to coordinating a photo shoot) – do it. The more skills you learn, the more valuable you become.
Know your strengths and weaknesses –Know what you are good at, then do as many projects as you can that leverage those skills. Conversely, avoid projects in areas where you are weak and can become easily exposed. I’ll use another one of my cycling analogies here – if you weight 200+ lbs, you will never be a great climber, so avoid races with a mountain top finish.
Learn how to navigate the office – Every organization has a unique way of getting things done, the sooner you can figure this out, the better. For example, being nice to office managers/executive assistants can make your life much easier – they are often the gatekeepers.
Don’t be afraid to have fun – This is something that any intern will realize after working at ThinkCash. You can be professional and still have fun in the office. In fact, enjoying who you work is critical. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family in most cases, so life is too short to not like the folks you work with. I’ve been blessed to work with some great people at iChoose, JCPenney and Blockbuster – all of them made coming into work, not work.
Baby steps – Don’t get caught up with advancing too fast. Every ambitious person I know came out of college with defined career goals (i.e. I want to make $X and be a VP of X by the time I’m 28). If you follow the steps above and just work hard – the rest will take care of itself.
This last step might be the most difficult. As much as I love working in the “Internet industry”, it does distort reality. I know lots of guys that have made millions before the age of 35 (some of them before the age of 25). We hear the Mark Cuban and Mark Zuckerberg stories so often, that every smart person that works in the industry starts to wonder why they haven’t achieved the same level of success. I know lots of very smart folks that change companies every 9 months trying to find a “homerun”. At the first sign that the company isn’t going to have a liquidity event, they move on to the next “homerun”. If everyone sets the career-success-barometer at “becoming a multimillionaire”, then we are going to have a lot of unhappy Gen X/Y r’s.
In short – enjoy what you do, work hard, have fun – life is too short to be unhappy.