I recently had a very early morning conversation with Kelby Carr, CEO of Type A Conference. In the course of writing back and forth she revealed she had been a reporter in a past life. I told her that was probably a very interesting story to which she said, “Maybe I should blog about it.” I responded with a “you should! Young women need to hear our war stories.” I can’t wait to read her story and in the meantime it got me thinking.
Everyone experiences a hiccup along their career that takes them in a new direction. I know I have experienced a few myself. And I like to look back at those hiccups once I’ve landed at my next point. There are always lessons learned from those moment in time that make you stronger, smarter and position you for what is to come even though at the time you think it’s the end of the world and you’ll never again be employed.
At Collective Bias, we employ interns and I love their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. One of our young designers manages the interns for the team and with each new crop of interns she sets up time for a chat with me. For an hour they pepper me with questions. Where did I go to school? How did I start my career? Am I from New York? They love my war stories and typically remark, “You should write a book.” And maybe I will some day.
Like Kelby I started out doing one thing and ended up in a whole other unexpected place. And when I sit with our interns they are surprised I started as a designer and ended up in a marketing role and as more of a writer.
But the intern’s favorite part always seems to be the stories about having lost a job. In about six months, I will hit the 40-year career mark. How did that happen? It’s been a great ride so far but not without its moments of stress. The most stressful was the moment I was going though a divorce, lost my job and my father died. I’d never had such a dark cloud over my head. I lost weight. I didn’t sleep much. I cut corners wherever I could to save money. It eventually I made it through that dark period. The key is taking it a day at a time and staying positive, which is incredibly hard.
Here’s my career advice:
Don’t stress about getting the first job right.
Time and time again when I talk to interns or people starting out the topic is picking a particular position at the right company. They chat about how this first step will make or break the career and their success that lies ahead. I don’t know anyone in the business that hasn’t experienced some twist or turn in their career that took them in a new direction. Just relax and be open to new opportunities that might come your way.
Network, network, network.
Networking is so important. Not only will it help you in your current job, but also if you get downsized or fired, you have built a network of people you can’t reach out to. Every new job I got, I got from knowing someone. Use social media to meet people in your industry. Go to events in your city. Attend conferences; ask your company to sponsor you as part of your growth.
Just get your foot in the door, work hard and think about something that you can become know for.
It’s important to get that first job and get as much experience as you can. You can start building a reputation right from the start so think about what you might want to be known as. Do you want to be known for thoroughness and attention to detail? Or you could be the fixer–someone who can take a problem and get it back on track.
Ask about mentors.
Make sure to ask in the interview process whether you will have guidance and a mentor. My daughter discovered this was lacking at company she interned at recently. It became an important interview question for her as she conducted her full time job search.
Read, read and read some more.
The second piece of advice I give is read. I can’t stress enough how important it is for young people to read about their industry. Knowledge is power as they say. I have Google alerts set up for certain topics. Read white papers. Read books. Read thought leadership pieces on LinkedIn. READ!
Write thought leadership pieces.
I also encourage people at all levels to write. To write you need to read. By writing you learn. And by publishing what you write, you start to build an online reputation for yourself. I haven’t had an actual resume in a decade. My LinkedIn profile serves as my resume with work history and houses links to dozens of things I’ve written.
Remember no career is ever linear and no amount of planning will prepare you for the changes most companies go through. But you can be prepared to survive anything if you are knowledgeable and connected.