This post is part 2 in our Career Advice series. You can find part 1 here.
Whether you’re just starting your career, smack dab in the middle of it, or thinking of pursing a new path, it’s nice to have some advice from people who have been there before. Facing the challenges. Fighting the fight. Figuring it out as they go.
Just like you.
Every month on the Talent Playbook Podcast, we interview C-level executives and business leaders to get their perspective on what it means to succeed – and what it takes to get there. We ask them, “What advice would you give to someone starting their career?”
Here are their answers. We hope you find some inspirational sparks to fuel you on your career journey!
Know your role, but stay curious
“The best advice I got the first or second year of my career was to learn 80% to 85% of the job and move on to the next thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean move on to a different job or quit your job, but challenge yourself to not stay in that space, to ask for additional challenges or responsibilities, to find ways to insert yourself into other parts of the organization, and to learn as much as you can about different parts of running a business, outside of your specific role.”
Chief Technology Officer at OutMatch
Tie-on to strong people
“This advice has been so critical in my life, and it’s to tie your rope up to people that you trust and you care about. If you link yourself up to the wrong people, you pay for it because you’re going to fall. You don’t want to be questioned at that point whether you put together a good rope. Also, don’t forget to look to take the blinders off and look laterally, rather than just looking out for number one. Leading from a place of service means that everyone is better served, and you’ll find it becomes sort of a recipe for how you operate throughout everything you do.”
Owner of MoutainVision Inc.
Adventurer/Expedition Leader, High Altitude Medic, Speaker, Author, Humanitarian
Find the ‘relatively’ right path
“I certainly was not the best student, mostly because I didn’t apply myself quite as much as I should have. But, I put myself on the path to getting in the right school, getting into the right program, reaching out to some really cool companies, and saying, ‘Just take a flyer on me. I don’t quite know what I want to be when I grow up, but let’s go do this thing together.’ So, even if you don’t know at 21 or 22 years old exactly what you want to be, if you have a general sense of what you want to accomplish, then at least get yourself down the relatively right path.”
Founder and CEO of Velocity Global
Level up your soft skills
“People who are thinking about a 30-year career should think about it in five- to ten-year increments and the things that they need to gather in each of those time periods. In the early days, it’s almost always about how you get technical competency in something and how you become the expert at being able to perform a task or a function. So, whether you’re in accounting, law, or sales, you have to demonstrate a lot of proficiency around that specific thing.
“As you move up, it becomes less about your proficiency in performing a task and more about your ability to motivate, lead, and inspire other people. What you really should be doing is building those soft skills, making sure that you understand how to build a plan, making sure that you understand how to communicate – because communication is probably one of the most fundamental things that enables people to succeed – and making sure that you know how to manage your time. Those are things that you need to be able to do to transition from individual contributor to manager.”
Senior VP of Corporate Development at iCIMS
Find your passion – and your people
“The first thing is to find the time to find your passion. Then, find people who support you in that discovery because if you try to color outside the line, it’s said to be taboo, and we’re losing great and creative people who could change the world because of the pressure to get in line and stay the course. Don’t discount what you love because everyone doesn’t agree with you. Do what you love because we’re supposed to live a life of joy. When we’re doing what we love, there’s more love and less of pain as we go.”
Business Growth Strategist, Entrepreneur, Speaker
Get out of your element
“There are 168 hours in a week. If you have a full-time job and… add in your commute, sleeping, etc., you can start to feel stretched really quickly. You want to enjoy what you’re doing. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to know what that is, what gives them joy the majority of time. The best way to figure that out is to be open to ideas, to learn, and to volunteer, whether it’s for projects that are in a different group within work or whether it’s outside of work. All of those experiences collectively give you what we referred to as your gut – your gut says this, your gut says that.
“So, being open to other experiences and throwing yourself into what I call being appropriately frustrated, like you’re out of the element, you get a better idea of how you’re wired and what you want to do for those 168 hours.”
Chief People Officer at SPINS
Understand what’s important to you
“I would suggest that anyone starting today think about what’s important to you and find a place that has the same thing inherent in the culture, values, or purpose – the kind of place you’re going to be proud of, one where you really feel like you can make a difference. Otherwise, it’s hard to make it work because the fundamental isn’t there. If you struggle, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But, there are places that may not be great for you, and I think that’s okay. Be selective in things.”
CEO of TDn2K
Go above and beyond
“Make sure you understand what your goals and objectives are that your supervisor has established for you that relate to the strategic goals of the institution. Then, make sure you’re always identifying things you can do to go above and beyond. Think about it like this: You want to be the person that your boss comes to. You want to be the person that somebody can rely upon because when another position opens up, that might be a step up. You’re the person they’re going to think of and maybe they will do that search internally as opposed to doing a full external search if they feel like they have a gem right there in their own team that they can promote.”
Michelle Miller Burns,
CEO of Minnesota Orchestra
Interested in more career advice? Check out How to Succeed in Your Career: Advice from the C-Suite Part 1. In it, you’ll hear from four successful entrepreneurs and a C-level exec at one of FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For,
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