And that just may because no two careers are ever the same. Different backgrounds, education, experiences, goals and priorities make every career unique.
So where do you turn for great, and relevant, career advice? At YouTern, our answer to that question is nearly always the same: go to a fellow careerist with plenty of been-there-done-that experience and ask this question:
As a mentor to young professionals just beginning their careers, what is your one piece of never-fails career advice?
With the help of members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), that’s exactly what we did.
Here’s what they said…
I always emphasis the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” While I love when professionals put in their time and more, I want that time to be well worth the time investment. Long hours don’t necessarily mean more work gets done, especially if you’re working ineffectively.
Don’t Chase Rainbows
This is your first ‘real’ job as a professional. You don’t have the skills to run a Fortune 500 company or to take a consumer product to market. So many people make the mistake of going straight from college to searching for their billion-dollar idea. That never happens. Never. Focus on honing your skills and becoming invaluable. That way, when the big opportunity comes, you’ll be able to see it.
Say “No” Often
Learning how to say “no” often to things that don’t impact your business’ start (like a fancy office, expensive business cards, over-the-top websites) can allow you to stay on track with goals. By saying no, you are able to focus on what really matters the most in building your business — the people, the product and the passion. All these P’s then lead to my favorite P: Profit!
Maintain Multiple Passions
Just because you are working in marketing, sales or web development doesn’t mean you have to give up on other passions. Hobbies and multiple interests are key to a fun and satisfying life, and this goes towards your career as well. Maintaining multiple passions will allow some doors to close and others to easily open. Never give up on an interest, even if it currently does not provide financial reward.
Practice Your Communication Skills
No matter what path you wind up taking, you’ll never regret polishing your writing and speaking skills. Blog regularly, speak at local events, even maintain a private journal — anything you can do to improve those skills is a valuable use of your time.
My biggest piece of advice is to stay humble. If you’re an entrepreneur or starting out in a corporation, you’re going to have to do some less-than-glamorous tasks. When I graduated college, I owned and operated a janitorial company. People would look at me funny but what they didn’t see was the cash flow I was generating. Staying humble and living like others won’t will help you reap the big benefits later.
Don’t Forget to Manage Up
Your job has its own list of requirements, but one that is never listed on a job description is to manage up. Make your boss look like a genius for hiring you. You have your to-do list, sure, but in order to succeed, try to make their life as easy as possible. The best way to do this? Be self-sufficient, ask good questions, produce quality work, and only take on what you can handle.
Continuously Set Goals to Maintain Motivation
Don’t give up. My personal philosophy is to not become discouraged as you feel you are climbing the corporate or entrepreneurial ladder. I encourage young professionals to set quarterly and annual goals for themselves, dedicate the time to review those goals and stay focused. This will be constant encouragement and motivation, and essential for success in business and life.
Very few small businesses experience significant growth or profits in the beginning, and being patient can help you get through the leaner times when you’re just starting out. Persevering by maintaining your work ethic would be a companion piece of advice as well.
Help Others Before You Help Yourself
The best way to develop strong business relationships is to proactively think of ways to help others. Instead of asking for this or that, try asking how you can help them. You’ll be amazed by how much you help yourself by constantly thinking of ways to help others.
Focus on What’s Critical
When starting out, it seems as if you have to do a million things to succeed: social media, staffing, sales, funding, travel, seminars, and it goes on and on. Be vigilant in focusing on the one or two things that MUST happen to make you and your company a success. Put your time into getting the resources necessary to only secure those few things. The rest will come with success.
Find Out How to Get Paid for Your Passion
Find your passion and then figure how to get paid for it. I am talking about the thing that wakes you up in the morning, and just the thought of it keeps you up late at night with excitement. When you do what you love, time literally grows wings. There is never enough of it because you are having fun.
You Can’t Beat Someone Who Significantly Outworks You
I share this tip with our young salespeople, but it applies to employees in all roles. If you think you’re good at your job and will close 5 percent of your touches, that’s probably unrealistic. But if you touch 100 people a month, you’ll close five deals. If your competitor isn’t as good as you and closes 1 percent of his/her touches, but touches 1,000 people a month, they’ll close twice as many deals.
Understand Your Goals
The sooner you know your goals, the sooner you can start working towards them. Young professionals are often lacking in direction and focus, which makes it harder for them to grow in their roles. There are many different career paths available, and if you do not make the choice, someone else will make the choice for you.
Trust Your Gut
There is one never-fail GPS system in your career and life and it’s your gut, also known as your intuition. Don’t let other people or experiences cause you to stop listening to that. While it will be important to allow feedback and guidance from trusted advisors, decisions should come down to your knowledge and instinct.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.