I have always been an ambitious kid and this has led me to work hard in all areas of my life. School, work, fitness… you name it, I was always ready to put in the work. Growing up and throughout my studies, I always had to balance school – and later university – and work – many times with a full-time schedule. When I started working out and taking karate and kickboxing classes during university, I was attending every single class and never missing out; working out for three hours at a time, 4-5 times a week. When I started working full time in the corporate world, well it’s no surprise that I dedicated myself to it 100% and set no boundaries. But there are things I wish I’d known heading into full-time work life. This is why today I am sharing the career advice I wish I was given.
There is more to life than work
I did not get much advice from those around me when entering the workforce, but this is the career advice I wish I was given.
The world has taught us that there is value in working hard. That being constantly busy is a badge of honour you should proudly wear. But let me tell you, there is no fun in having constant back and neck pain from sitting at your desk 15 hours a day. Or in missing out on your little nephew’s 2nd birthday because you couldn’t spare 5 minutes off work to FaceTime him. And the list can go on.
The time we have here is limited. We don’t have tomorrow guaranteed, and truth is, there is more to life than work. Although I love working and achieving, there are some things that I’ve learned that are non-negotiable, and work should never come at their expense. For me, those are taking care of your own physical and mental health, spending time with loved ones, and living life on your own terms and by your own values. Especially with Covid entering our lives – but not only that – I have changed my attitude towards work and career. Yes, I want a successful career but I also want to enjoy my life. I don’t want to feel like I spend 80% of my awake time – or more – working (for someone else’s dreams). I shared some more thoughts on this topic here.
Don’t work hard, work smart
“Work smart, not hard” sounds like a real cliche, and believe me, I wish it was just that; but it’s true. You can’t make it in life by only working hard. You need to also learn to work smart, to play to your own advantage. Putting in endless work hours is not such a big deal when you are in your early twenties; but years and decades in, it becomes taxing. Taxing for your physical health, mental health, and personal life.
The alternative to working hard is working smart. Play to your strengths, learn about how and when you are most productive and leverage that in every single workday. In the last year, when we were forced to reduce 10-20% work hours across the company because of Covid, I learned that I can produce the same output (or more) by putting in less time. How? By focusing on the things that deliver the most impact and ignoring the thankless tasks i.e. those that are simply a waste of time. Once this was over, I realized that I can probably push it even further if I am really serious about limiting my work hours. Since then, for example, I keep my Fridays meeting free (with very rare exceptions). This way I can focus on doing actual work. Or on getting ahead for the following week. Or simply taking back some time for myself; something I’ve learned to shamelessly do.
I am also working on putting together a few tips to help you work smart not hard; I will share them in a blog post soon, so stay tuned!
Setting boundaries is on you
If you feel overwhelmed by work or like a slave of your own schedule, I would definitely encourage you to set some boundaries. Focus on working smart rather than simply working hard. Start to play more by your own rules. Focus on your health, your time, and learn to work at your optimal pace. Especially if you are on the verge of being burnt out. This is your sign to make a move.
Besides, you know how everyone says that if you die, your employer will probably take a week to replace you? Well, that’s actually true. You and your own health are your own responsibility; it’s on you to set boundaries with yourself at work. This won’t come easy but it’s on you to do it. I also wrote more about my own journey with boundary setting here.
Anyways, I am grateful that I learned this lesson still quite early on in my career. And grateful for the fact that I learned to set boundaries. I think this is hugely important and that’s why I am sharing the career advice I wish I was given when entering the corporate world.
I would love to also hear from you on this topic. Do you agree with it? Also, what’s the one piece of advice you wish you were given before entering the workforce?