Today I’ve been asked to attend an event designed to provide mentoring to young people. The format of the event puts me at a table with 2-3 people for 20 minute sessions to answer questions and dish out advice.
It got me thinking… what do I wish I had known before I started my career? My first thought was… everything! But that’s not really true. Some of the fun in life is the journey. Without the ups and downs we wouldn’t be the people we are today. Still, there are a lot of things that would have been useful to know.
So, I decided to jot down a few ideas based on my own experience. Some items from this list are things I wish I had known, and some are things I wish other people would have known. By all means, I hope you’ll add to the list if you think of something I missed.
- Listening is the most important tool in the business arsenal. Before you give your opinion, ask others for their opinion first. If you’re going to agree it makes it easy. If you’re going to disagree you’ll know before they do and be able to change your delivery to “sell” your idea to others. And when you ask a question, be patient as you wait for an answer. Knowledge is power and your goal should be to get as much as you can while giving out only what is absolutely necessary.
- Patience is a prerequisite to success. Everyone is looking for the quick buck, but no one wants to earn it. Heck, I understand. I wish for the same thing too! But it just doesn’t work that way. If you’re going to be successful you are going to have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s going to take hard work, and a lot of it!
- 40 hours a week won’t make you rich. Think about it. You can’t expect to work the same hours as 95% of the population, but somehow be in the top 1% of incomes. If your main goal is financial in nature you are going to have to really work in the same general percentage of the bell curve as you want to be rewarded.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover. The only thing that matters in a business setting is how much a person contributes to the overall cause. It doesn’t matter how they look, or if they boast about how great they are. The only thing that counts at the end of the day is if they are continuing to move the business forward.
- Whoever said “I didnâ€™t learn anything useful in school” was an idiot. It’s true, you can’t learn everything in school, some things only come with experience. But believe me, you are going to have to learn everything, so get yourself a huge head start by learning it early and you’ll leapfrog all the other people who are sitting around wondering “why do I need to know this”?
- Whiny, angry people are destined for failure. If you have a bad temper, or if you find yourself complaining a lot, you need to work on that. No one in a work environment wants to see either of those things. You have to be calm, cool and collected to solve problems, and problem solving is what business is all about. Don’t even bother pointing out problems unless you plan on being part of the solution.
- Work harder than anyone around you. Arrive earlier, take shorter lunch breaks, and leave late. Not only will you get more actual work done than your peers, the folks in charge will love you and consider you for advancement.
- Keep your personal and work life separate. You need to be friendly at work, but never, never forget it’s a competitive environment. Tell people you have problems at home and everyone will soon think, “it’s affecting your work”. Tell people things are going great and theyâ€™ll think, “its affecting your work”. You need to craft your work image carefully, and protect it like your reputation counts on it! Oh, and don’t drink. Getting drunk around people you work with is a recipe for disaster.
- Take calculated risks. Risk, generally speaking, is a bad thing. Calculated risks however, can leapfrog a career. A calculated risk is one you feel has been thoroughly investigated, has a reasonable chance of success, and most importantly leaves you with viable options in case of failure. I’ve seen too many people take huge risks and fail because they simply lack the patience to wait for the success that comes from hard work.
- Don’t be so certain you’re right. Every day I see people assert things they know to be “true” only to be proven wrong. The world is not black and white, so keep your ego in check and constantly challenge your own assumptions. Do the research to back up your opinions, but remember that the research could be flawed. Don’t be afraid to try things, but don’t be too proud to admit when it doesn’t work.
I’ve got some seriously successful folks who read this blog, so even if you’ve never left a comment, now’s a good time! Got anything to add to the list? It’s for the kids!