For some odd reasons, I feel I’ve had a pretty good career to date.
I’ve had a successful business.
I’ve done the corporate thing.
I’ve been an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur.
I’ve done the side-hustle-internet-business thing.
After all of these pursuits, I began to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. I studied what people succeeding in their careers did and compared it with what those who are stalled and unhappy in their careers were doing.
I took some time to reflect and then write down what it was that made an excellent career. There were some humungous ah-ha moments as I wrote down each point. A career is not so complex when you strip away all the business jargon and rah-rah nonsense on the Internet.
Here are the 23 things I wish I knew at the start of my career:
1. Someone is upsetting you right now.
Right now, somewhere in your company, there’s someone doing something that upsets you. It upsets you because they are violating your rules for business and life. Stop letting people steal your happiness. Your rules are not the guiding principles of the universe. Your rules probably have holes all the way through them.
2. Be careful what you say about others
Everything you say about a work colleague could get back to them and probably will. Only say what you are happy to repeat to someone face-to-face. Don’t be a coward.
3. If you have the Monday blues then quit.
Monday Blues are a sign that you hate your career (or at least your job). If you get them regularly, then quit the business you’re in and don’t ask why. You’re a Swiss Army Knife, so try something else.
4. Experience is not everything.
Assumptions will have a negative effect on your career. Assuming that a business wants experience is a convenient excuse when you don’t get your dream position. Recruiters and business owners don’t have a fixed checklist of what they want. They make it up as they go based on how you make them feel and whether they like you. Make people feel freaking amazing, inspire them and the rest should take care of itself.
5. Ask for the job title you want.
My buddy was going to take the job title “Partnerships Lead.” I told him that he should ask for something with the word “Manager” or “Head Of” because he deserved it. I told him that potential partners want to know they are dealing with someone who can make decisions.
He asked for the job title he wanted and got it. You’ve got nothing to lose, so ask for what you want.
6. Assume the answer is 'yes' until told otherwise
Stop asking for permission. Take action with the best interests of the business in mind and cool stuff will happen. Asking for permission in your career will stop you from innovating. People always have a reason to say no, so don’t give them a reason to. Take action and say sorry later.
7. Haggle the salary negotiation.
In any career, there is going to be a time when you have to put a price tag on yourself. Let the business give you the dollar figure first and then tell them you need to sleep on it. Go back the next day and ask for significantly more money.
At best they will say yes. At worst, they’ll come up from their very low base and give you more. You deserve to be paid well so don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.
8. You can always walk away.
Don’t like the salary offer? Walk away. Feel like the business you are part of is going nowhere? Walk away. Even though you tell yourself there isn’t, there’s always an option to change direction.
9. Take a holiday.
My name’s Tim and I didn’t take a single day of annual leave or sick day in seven years. I burnt out, got very sick, became depressed, suffered anxiety and lost the plot. Take a bloody day off and remember to turn your phone off!
10. Your phone is killing your career.
You’re being rude every time you answer the phone in the middle of a face-to-face conversation. You’re killing rapport.
Every time your phone rings loudly in a meeting, you’re disrespecting everyone present. At least put it on silent but ideally don’t take it into the meeting. Focus is power and your phone distracts you. Anything happening on your tiny little phone screen can wait.
The world won't end because you are away from your phone for 45 minutes. Seriously, this should be common sense. For those of you who are old enough to remember, what did you do in 1996 when mobile phones were not a thing? Did all business collapse?
11. Do walking meetings.
Sitting down all day will make you a fatso with no energy. Walk to meetings. Meet people for meetings and go for a walk instead of sitting. Buy a Fitbit and track your progress to feel good and stay motivated.
12. Be grateful for your career to date
Whether you realize it or not, people helped you reach the point at which you are today in your career. Someone helped you to get where you are. Be grateful for that.
13. Don’t forget where you started.
You may be a big shot manager, business owner, etc., or about to become one, but don’t forget where you came from. Don’t forget that we were all once one of the people who made coffee, swept the floor, took customer service calls and worked our butts off. You’ll be respected much more if you remember that.
14. Take a few risks.
The best career decisions I ever made were when I took a risk. Stop being a wimp. Do something that scares the pants off you.
15. Say what you think.
Product suck? Tell them. Taking too long? Tell them. Not happy about something? Tell them. People that tell the truth and say what they think in a respectful manner go places. Say what everybody is thinking, but is too afraid to say.
Related: Why I Didn't Speak Up When Male Colleagues Made More Doing the Same Job -- But Worse
16. Opinions are everywhere.
There’s not a single person you’ll encounter in your career who doesn’t have an opinion. Listen to the one’s that make sense to you and ignore the rest.
17. Learn new things.
Every day, learn one new thing that will help you in your career. Pretty soon, you’ll have a toolkit you can rely on when you need them. This habit will take you further than anyone else. Not because you have to win the game, but because you can use your gifts to lead other people.
18. Minimise negative people.
You’ll have to deal with plenty of negative nancy’s in your career. They can’t be avoided, but don’t let them take up too much of your time. These people will find something wrong with everything. It’s what they do best.
19. Write things down.
A typical business day involves loads of information. Your brain will forget most things, so write stuff down. Electronically is always best so you can find it again by searching for keywords.
20. Network your face off.
Successful careers are built on phenomenal networks. All the opportunities worth taking come from people who like what you do. Find quality people who understand your value and add them to your network. One day, one of them will give you an opportunity that you’ve always dreamt of.
These opportunities are not miracles. They’re created by networks full of high caliber people.
21. Be a top bloke or gal.
We all remember the nice people who treat us well. Be one of those people and you’ll stand out from the crowd. People who are good deep down, always finish first. It’s the secret tomato sauce.
22. Grow your social media presence.
Okay, this tip is not about that dumb phrase called “personal brand.” That whole concept is selfish and boring. No one wants to be around someone who blows their own trumpet to the Sound of Music every day.
I’m telling you to create a social media presence because it allows you to do the following:
- Be known for what you’re good at.
- To become a teacher.
- To remind yourself of what you stand for and what you’re passionate about.
- To share stories.
To share key takeaways from events you attend.
As you grow as a person, so will your career.
The more I’ve developed as a person, the better my career has got. Work on yourself each day. Try to improve your mindset. Think differently to find unique ways to offer value.
Your career is a reflection of you. If your career sucks right now, then maybe you suck right now. That’s okay because you can fix that.