Career Advice To My Younger Self

Wisdom comes from living.
Anthony Douglas Williams

I’m a corporate war dog. I’ve seen it all over the course of my long career and my life experiences have shaped me into the kind of professional I am today. While I have to vantage of hindsight, as a novice, you don’t. If I could roll back the clock and mentor my younger self, this is what I would say:

“Take your education seriously.”
While I received a great undergraduate education (I’m a Temple alum), it’s going to take a bit more than that in today’s business landscape. I’m seeing more and more employers requiring a higher level of education these days. And while it may sound elitist, companies (especially the most prestigious ones) care about where you went to school, especially when you’re just starting out. Gaining acceptance into a top MBA program will pave the way for a long and prosperous career. These programs have an amazing network you can tap into and give you an edge when competing for internships and jobs.

“Make that first real job count.”
While it may sound exciting to join a startup right out of business school, getting your feet wet within a Fortune 500 firm will shape you into a more well-rounded professional. I would look at companies with a strong management trainee program that will allow you to experience operations within multiple departments. After you’ve gotten a grasp of the way big business works, feel free to venture out into alternative career paths—especially if you know climbing the corporate ladder isn’t right for you.

“Learn how to play the game.”
Whether it’s at a large corporation or within a small team, you will need to learn how to navigate office politics. Corporate culture varies from place to place—even from department to department—so know what you need to do to build alliances that will keep you doing your best work.

“Be comfortable with getting uncomfortable.”
Early in your career, you will likely be asked to do a lot of “grunt” work. And later in your career, you may need to diversify in order to keep moving forward with your career. You need to get over the anxiety associated with stepping out of your comfort zone if you want to succeed. Understand that fear can be an asset if you handle it correctly.

Hopefully, you’ve learned something from my experiences and incorporate my advice into your own career path. What advice would you give your younger self? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Pundits, Quit your Gerrymandering: 3 Ways to Win at Office Politics

With midterm elections right around the corner, yard signs, bumper stickers and other paraphernalia are a common sight. You’ll have friends (you know who they are) who will undoubtedly try to convince you to join their party, vote for their candidates and flood your Facebook timeline with posts about making the “right decision”. Nonetheless, after Election Day, we’ll move onto Thanksgiving and then our next holiday of choice – seemingly forgetting all about the political hullabaloo just a few weeks back.

Office politics are a little different. You can’t show your support on a sticker or t-shirt, but you definitely have leaders and allies. A lot of people see office politics as something to avoid, but I believe if you are ethical in your politicking, you can yield great results. Here’s the thing, your office probably has a couple of folks looking to promote their personal agenda, similar to many politicians. But you’ll also find like-minded individuals who are looking to better serve the company and advance their careers, but not at the expense of others. Here are three quick tips that will keep your office politics clean and the mudslinging at bay.

  1. Listen Carefully – Early in my career I received some great advice from my mentor. He urged me to talk less and listen more. Whether you are selling a service to a potential client or working on getting a new policy adopted at your company, listen to the people around you and their needs. If it’s a customer, you can shape your pitch to their requirements. With your colleagues, you can win them over by addressing their issues and concerns in your policy while advocating for your shared cause. Another great thing about good listening is that it’s a talent you can take home.
  2. Don’t Take Sides – This may be one of the hardest things to do in the workplace. Unlike high school where you publicly displayed your allegiance – jocks, nerds, glee club – and wore it like a badge of honor, the office requires you to be a bit more discreet. Work with your colleagues to solve problems in a diplomatic fashion, focusing on the solution and not on the person fighting for it. Take the person out of the equation and you’ll be sure to get great results.
  3. Forget About Winning – Unlike the political race, you may never have a clear winner. You may shape your solution differently after hearing your colleague’s opinion or research. Ultimately, you could be wrong but if you are pliable and willing, everyone will benefit from taking the competition out of office politics so you can craft the best solution.

We’d love to hear about how you handle office politics. Share your tips with us below. One last thing, don’t forget to vote on November 4th! I’ll step off my soapbox now.