I recently shared a post detailing my career journey. Where I started and where I am currently but also all the steps I took in between. I made some good decisions along the way, while some others were probably not the best. Looking back, however, I wanted to share a few key lessons and tips from my career journey that helped me grow, get promotions and salary increases, change jobs and ultimately careers, and most importantly, just feel good and confident in my skin at work.
Lessons and tips from my career journey
Take time to discover your professional self. Build up your skills and learn to feel your professional weight. Confidently grow in the direction of your ideal self. Don’t worry if you make mistakes along the way or if you are still far from where you want to be. Take the time to feel how far you’ve already come and count the successes and achievements that make you a good professional, especially the transferrable skills – whether that’s speaking up in a room full of senior management, giving recommendations to a client, running a good and productive meeting, or whatever else that you are proud of. When the time to change comes – whether to step into a promotion, change jobs, companies or even careers – know that you are worth it and you are not starting from scratch. You bring skills, experience, and everything else that makes you, you.
Don’t settle for things if they don’t feel right and don’t be afraid of change. Or better said, you can be afraid of change but don’t let that stop you. I think the saying goes something like “Courage is not the absence of fear but acting in spite of it”. I try to remember this in all types of situations. Whether it’s something small such as acknowledging a mistake at work or taking a new and bigger project within your current role, or in the bigger ones such as doing a career change. Have the confidence in your skills and your ability to pull it off because ultimately you have the ability to learn and grow.
Take a calculated risk every now and then. It can be as big as a career change or a pay cut or even something smaller. You are the architect of your own career journey, so don’t let fears or how others approach their own journey distract you. Do your homework to back up your decisions, and use that to your advantage. I personally approached pay cuts as a stepping stone. I knew my professional worth and this helped me see it as a step forward instead of a step back. Of course, we might want different things at different stages in our lives and careers. Learn your own boundaries and take a risk when it makes sense for you.
Don’t ask for permission, take what is yours. Don’t ask for permission to take what’s yours or just wait for things to happen to you. Create the circumstances for it and take it. This can mean earning autonomy over your responsibilities or maybe setting boundaries. Whatever it is, learn to speak up early on and stand your ground. I promise your work life will be much easier if you do this early on. If people perceive you as someone who knows what they want, they will be more likely to act accordingly. Throughout my career journey, some things came easy to me. However, for many other, I had to fight my way when I didn’t agree with how things were going. I’ve always been proud of having the courage to fight for what I believed in and I can only hope to keep this for the rest of my career.
Build your reputation. The saying goes something like “Work on your reputation, and your reputation will work for you”. Work hard and it will pay off. But also be smart about it. Make sure your work is seen and valued, and if that’s not the case, work on changing that. When joining a new company or team or starting in a new role, make sure you spend time building your reputation. Show your commitment to success, show bias for action, be reliable and keep your word on delivering good work, and build good relationships across the company, up, down, and across. Prove yourself again and again. I strongly believe that when you have a good reputation, your life at work is easier. I also have a dedicated blog post on this topic here.
Learn to play the office politics game on your own terms. Ignoring what is a fact and how most, if not all, companies operate, will only hinder your career trajectory. While I personally think you shouldn’t be part of the office politics as such, you should definitely be aware of it and learn to play it on your own terms if you want to advance in your career at a healthy pace. My personal approach to office politics is still through hard work, but acknowledging the dynamics and trying to use that in your favour and on your own terms. In the end, the trick for me is to combine your hard work and expertise with building a network that will bring you the exposure you need. I talk more about how to do this in an authentic way in a dedicated blog post here.
Growth is uncomfortable. Whenever you will challenge yourself or change environments, you will feel uncomfortable, and often that is a sign of growth. Unless, of course, you simply are in a toxic workplace. But if you know you are not, learn to embrace being uncomfortable and know that it’s a temporary feeling. Our key skill as humans is adaptability, so know that you can handle this. You have the ability to learn and to grow. After all, you’ve done it dozens of time throughout your life – since tackling the great unknown of kindergarten as a toddler, to perhaps graduating college, making it through your first job or getting your first promotion. You’ve done it all and will still do so much more.
As always, thank you for making it so far. I hope you found some of the lessons and tips from my career journey useful. Do let me know what else would you add to the list. I’d love to hear what are your top learnings when looking back at your career.
P.S. I also have quite a few detailed posts with more career tips and how to succeed at work based on my personal experience. You can check them out in the Career section of the blog.