Our Marketing Manager has her fingers well and truly on the pulse. If it’s trending, she is all over it like a seagull on a bag of chips. Viral might as well be her middle name, although I’d expect a few raised eyebrows in the church on her wedding day if it was. So when she came to me last week asking me to provide advice to my 22 year old self, I guessed she was probably onto something. A quick google search later and I realised this was my chance to join the ranks of the great and the good by jumping on the latest LinkedIn Influencers’ bandwagon and sharing the wisdom gleaned over the last 39 years of my life.
So what advice would I give to the 22 year old who left university and was so overwhelmed by the variety of choices on offer that he spent the first year after graduation working in/propping up the University Union bar, where the only significant choice made was between Fosters (£1.05 a pint) and Snakebite & Black (£1.25 a pint, but so much more effective)?
1. Don’t let the fear of making the wrong decision stop you from making any decision at all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a mistake. It is far better to make a wrong choice, learn from it and move on than it is to keep doing the same safe thing and learn nothing. It took me until the age of 29 after six years with one business before I threw caution to the wind, rented out my London flat and bought a round the world ticket. I was petrified that giving up a secure job whilst I had a mortgage – and a London mortgage at that – was a massive risk and was likely to end in financial disaster. It actually took me a full 12 months before I actually took the plunge and I can still remember the feeling of dread I experienced as I handed in my resignation letter. As it happened my round-the-world ticket turned out to be a halfway-round-the-world ticket and saw me settling in Sydney where I have happily spent the last 10 years. The change of location gave me the chance to wipe my career slate clean and I jumped into a new role I would never have been brave enough to try if I’d stayed in my comfort zone of London living. I only wish I had made the decision earlier.
2. Be the squeaky wheel! Whilst I had enjoyed working throughout my twenties, I had never really put myself forward for bigger and better jobs, instead getting my head down and getting on with my day job to the best of my ability. As a result, I was often overlooked for promotion whilst those of my colleagues a little more focused on building their personal brand internally moved up the ranks. When I moved over to Australia I consciously decided to put myself well and truly in the frame for future promotion. Every time volunteers were required to take on extra work, my hand shot up. I sought constructive feedback and acted upon it. I asked what I needed to do to get the next job up and I made sure I did it. I spoke to and more importantly listened to people who knew more than I did – and then made sure they saw me acting on their advice. This conscious decision to raise my profile at work worked wonders and promotions followed. I was still essentially the same employee who worked just as hard, only now I was getting myself noticed.
3. Surround yourself with colleagues whose company you enjoy. You spend a long time at work. Far too long to be surrounded by people who don’t inspire you, challenge you, engage you, enable you to be better at what you do and above all make you laugh. Find a business where people take their jobs seriously but not themselves. Work with people whose passion and drive for their business is served up with a healthy dollop of enjoyment. It is going to be a very long and challenging journey from here to retirement so you should at least try to do it with a smile on your face.
How much attention I would have paid to an almost-40 year old recruiter giving me career advice as I sat, aged 22, sipping cheap ale in the North East of England, I don’t know. But just in case there are any others with a similar attention span listening, I’ll keep it brief – make decisions, make noise and make friends. Stick to these and you won’t go far wrong.
Paul Darby is Managing Director of AccountAbility, Sydney.
Read more of the LinkedIn posts here. #ifIwere22
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