by Sam Neo
In the next couple of months, we will be seeing the new batch of fresh graduates joining the workforce. These graduates, as we once were, will be eager to find their dream job and have a strong desire to prove their worth in wherever they venture into.
After entering the workforce for over 4 years, it got me thinking, what would I have done differently if I were to turn back time? What advice would I give to my younger self?
1. Patience is a virtue
All driven undergraduates/graduates tend to want things fast. They want to prove themselves fast. They want to get promoted fast. They want their names to be out there fast. The hunger for success is an essential driving force but that often creates a problem, impatience. The lack of patience can result in blind spots that may create problems down the road for individuals. For example, an eager new hire may be trying to do too much that he/she neglects the team and in turn, creates an impression of being individualistic and not able to work effectively in teams. That may not be the case, but the body language can communicate otherwise and rub people off in an unintended manner.
Recognize that your career is a journey, not a short distance sprint. The last thing you want is a burnout as soon as you start your career. Impatience may also lead to unnecessary pressure on your shoulders and could potentially lead to disappointment. Therefore, look ahead, pace yourself and build a solid foundation so that you can travel the journey.
2. Seek to add value and make a difference
It is perfectly normal for fresh graduates to seek recognition and try to showcase themselves. What you want is a form of assurance and validation that you are good in what you do. However, it should not be the sole aim when approaching your work or in things you do. What you should anchor on is the value and difference you can make. Focus on that and recognition will follow eventually. You will eventually realize that recognition is a byproduct of your effort rather than an item on its own.
You need to first give before you can expect to receive. If you are an unpolished diamond, you will shine no matter how much dust is covering you at this moment. It’s a matter of time and effort before you make it so have faith in yourself and continue to make a difference in whatever you do.
3. Don’t be afraid to look for help
Since young, I was taught not to expect answers to be given to you. That mantra guided me throughout my studies and now career. But I realized that asking for answers is actually different from seeking help. Help can come in the form of finding a mentor, reading a book or simply speaking to industry experts. What these external aids do is that it provides you with a lift when required or, guide you in the right direction when you are lost in your journey.
It’s important to realize that even with the help you receive in life, you will still need to work hard and find the answers yourself. The help you get are mere tools in life that you can leverage on. Ultimately, it still depends on how much you want something and how you go about navigating through the obstacles in life.
4. Learn to connect with people
Networking is probably quite a nightmare for many. But face the fact, it is an essential part of success in the corporate world. Taking things one step further, I would think that meaningful networking is when you can truly make connection with others. That can be done through sincere conversations and interactions.
Learn to speak people’s language. Show interest and curiosity to learn more about the person you are connecting with. Listen actively and let the person feel that you actually like him/her. With a mutual understanding and liking, connections will then take place more readily.
5. Never get too comfortable
You will probably hear people rejecting your ideas and innovations because “things have always been done this way”. The typical culprit for such statements? Comfort. People who get too comfortable at work tend to avoid moving out of that comfort zone and that impedes innovation.
It is thus important to make a conscious effort to stay out of the comfort zone. Keep pushing yourself to stay ahead and remain relevant in face of all competitions. That said, you will need to keep an open mind and possess a strong willingness to learn. The hunger for knowledge and assumption that you do not know enough is important. Be like a sponge and absorb as much as you can regardless of how experienced you are. You can always see things from a new perspective and find a new way to do the same task if you put enough thought into it. Learning is key and it will hold you in good stead if you persevere on this pursuit for knowledge.
6. Get your hands dirty
It is easy to find meaning in high profile strategic assignments. What about the repetitive menial tasks? Are they really just a chore with no value? Like it or not, you will probably have to go through 10 menial tasks before establishing your credibility and gaining the trust of your manager to take on a bigger role. That’s the rite of passage that everyone has to go through. Instead of complaining and doing a less than perfect job for such “meaningless tasks”, why not put things into perspective and learn something from it? I believe that there are no meaningless jobs, only jobs that you don’t assign meaning to.
You can learn a little from observing but you will gain a lot more if you actually do the work yourself. So get your hands dirty as much as you can because the more you do, the faster you will grow as a professional and individual.
Time travel may still seem like a distant reality for common people like you and me, making it difficult for us to undo what has not been ideal in the past. But with the ups and downs in our respective lives and careers, we are in the blessed position to share some experiences with our younger friends to help reduce their learning curve a little. Since we can make a difference in someone else’s life, why not pass it on? I’ve reflected and said my piece. What about you?