5 Important Career Lessons Most People Learn Too Late In Life

Study hard and get good grades. Everything else will fall into place. That’s what we were taught to believe about our professional life. A lot of us have internalized this advice and probably realized that that’s not really how things work.

You can achieve a stellar GPA and graduate from one the best universities and still find yourself unprepared for the real world. That’s because some lessons aren’t taught in classrooms and knowing them early on can make a huge difference in our careers.

If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. Here are some important career lessons you can benefit from now.

a. Success is not linear. Most of us have an idea of the path to follow in order to reach our career goals. The traditional view of success looks like this:

1. Go to a good school

2. Graduate with a stellar GPA

3. Get a good job and do well

4. Get promoted

5. Go back to school

6. Climb up the ladder

7. Live happily ever after

Sounds simple right? In reality, we don’t arrive at our goals by following a straight path. More often than not, we take detours (in the form of breaks, setbacks, moments of regression etc.) and figure out how to get back on track.

Take Chris Sacca, American venture investor for example. He turned down the opportunity to invest in Airbnb and Dropbox, thinking they wouldn’t be successful in the long run. Seeing how these companies went big, many would consider these moves to be a failure. Yet, Chris is now a billionaire with investments in Twitter, Uber, Instagram, Kickstarter etc. He’s the perfect reminder that you shouldn’t let your mistakes define you. You don’t need to have it all figured out from the start. There are external forces that will often interfere with your trajectory. Fret not. You can always recover from a setback. What is important is developing an attitude that embraced change and knows how to turn “failures” into learning opportunities.

b. Your career is what you make of it. No one is going to give you anything unless you earn it. As an intern, you may get hired if you show you’re a team player and hard worker. Want that promotion or raise? Make sure you’ve exceeded your supervisor’s expectations and continue to align yourself with the company’s goals. Some things may be outside your control, but you have a say over your performance and the amount of work you do – which ultimately will bring you closer to your goals.

It’s important to remember not to get comfortable and let your growth become stagnant. If you hit a wall at your job, find a better opportunity (only after attempting to fix that, though). Want to make a  career transition? Start doing your research and network with industry insiders. Hate the thought of working for someone and dream of starting a business? Do it while you don’t have a mortgage or a family to feed. Or, spend all your free time on executing your idea until you make enough money to be able to quit.

c. You can create your own opportunities. When it comes to making moves in our career, we tend to wait for permission. We wait for a job to get experience instead of acquiring that experience on our own. We wait to get a raise instead of diversifying our income and becoming less dependent on that in the first place. We wait until “the universe gives us a sign” to  after the very things that make our heart beat.

It’s a trap we so easily fall into when in reality, we are the only ones who can give ourselves permission to do something. You can go make videos on your own and hone your editing skills. You can take a photography class and start shooting your friend’s engagement. You can enroll in a coding course to move to the next phase of your career. Be proactive when it comes to your personal and professional development. You can accomplish much more in a team than by yourself of course, but do not let the absence of help handicap you.

d. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. I was at an event a few weeks ago and wrote down a very powerful piece of advice. One of the panelists said, “The answer to the questions you never ask is always no.”

A lot of us don’t get what we want because we don’t know how to ask. Or rather, we’re too afraid of rejection. It’s cliche, but the worst case-scenario is hearing no, then you just find someone else to say yes. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to go to people and express what you need help with. Together is better than alone. Of course don’t be one of those people who only know how to take. Make sure you’re contributing to them just as much as they are contributing to you. But do not let your pride get in the way of your progress. You’d be surprised how people are open to sharing their experience and giving advice.

e. You should always update your skills. Whether you’re an intern or a senior executive, your education never stops. Your dedication to learning will be the difference between you staying stagnant and you moving up the corporate ladder.Think of yourself like a smartphone. Upgrades maximize your performance. Don’t get comfortable with a job that you forget to make yourself marketable. Nowadays, job security is obsolete. Technology is disrupting the workplace, replacing jobs and creating careers. I wouldn’t be surprised if robots eventually replace bank tellers just like self-driving cars will replace bus or taxi drivers. You can’t afford to be left behind. Always think about learning new skills and adapting to current times. Like Robert Kiyosaki from Rich Dad Poor Dad would advise, invest in yourself so that you stay ahead of the market.

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4 Brilliant Ways to Brand Yourself Online

As a consumer, I prefer buying from brands I personally feel connected to. Even if their products or services cost more, I’d rather invest in them. This is also true for the majority of millennials. In fact, a study by Elite Daily showed that we are the most brand-loyal generation.

Whether you’re a business owner, freelancer or regular employee, your personal brand is what sets you apart from others. It is what keeps people engaged and consuming from you. It is then crucial that it speaks for itself.

Over the past few months, I’ve worked on growing my personal brand and it’s led to major opportunities such as speaking engagements, consulting gigs, freelance work etc.

Here’s how to build a strong digital presence:

Be clear about what you do – This is especially hard when you’re a multipotentialite. By nature, we love to do many things. Be ready to articulate each one of them. Better yet, find what connects all your passions and speak to that. Are you a writer who can also produce videos and take great photos? Then you are a content creator who can effectively amplify voices. Figure out all the things you can do really well, but be specific about the core of your personal brand. What do you want people to know you as? What should they come to you for?

Pick a niche market – In a world where almost every market is saturated, choosing a niche is recommended. This doesn’t mean you will reach less people. Au contrary, you will reach more of the people you’re targeting. For example, a freelancer doesn’t need to do work for everyone. They would be spreading themselves too thin. They don’t need to have thirty clients either. They only have so much time! Choosing a subset of the market will help them effectively market themselves and score gigs.

Do you want to help small business owners build authority with blogging? Can you provide training and professional development for corporations? Narrowing down the audience who could use your expertise will give you a better sense of direction as you’ll know exactly where to look and who to approach.

Add value – Before you share anything online, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it aligned with what I stand for? Will it strengthen my brand?
  2. Is it valuable? Can someone use it to learn something and make a decision?
  3. Does it demonstrate my expertise?

The more you provide value, the more people are likely to engage with you. It will show a genuine commitment to helping others. You can add value in different ways (status updates, live webinars, courses, ebooks etc.) Be creative with the way you share your content and stay abreast of the platforms your audience will likely adopt.

Document your wins – Use social media to showcase your expertise and highlight your accomplishments. You need to show people what you can do. It’s the only way they will buy into it! Recorded one of your speaking engagements? Post the video everywhere! Have something interesting to say about a recent trend in your industry? Whether it’s on LinkedIn or Medium, blog away! Offer to guest post for publications to expand your audience!

A common misconception is that personal branding only matters when you plan to be or already are in the spotlight. You don’t need to achieve stardom to have a personal brand. We’re all in the business of managing ourselves and as such, we could leverage a strong personal brand to reach our goals.

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10 Motivational Quotes to Conquer Fear and Do What You Love

Like me, you’ve probably stayed at a job you hated for too long or put off doing something you cared about because of fear. Like Robert Kiyosaki said, “Fear is the biggest detractor to human genius.” It literally paralyzes us into inaction.

How many times have you delayed something you really wanted to do because you were scared? I used to waste time reading a bunch of blogging-related articles because I was just too afraid to launch my blog. I’d let my lack of coding knowledge intimidate me instead of building the courage to just figure things out. And when I finally did it, the world didn’t fall apart like I imagined.

If you often hesitate to take action because of fear, these inspirational career quotes will push you to take the leap.

“There are funerals held every day for the opportunities we allow to die out.” – Shirazi

“The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.” – Seth Godin

“What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Lewis Howes

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” – Tim Ferriss

 

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.” ― Richie Norton

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” – Tony Robbins 

“When it comes down to it, nothing trumps execution.” Gary Vaynerchuk

“You will find there are times you must grasp your life with both hands and forcefully steer it in a new direction and then strain to hold your course until the storms of fear, weakness, and doubt abate.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali

Your turn to share! Do you have any favorite quotes? Please let me know in the comments.

Related: 10 Quotes that Will Inspire You to Do What You Love

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Help! My Parents Don’t Understand What I do

Parents. At their best, they’re supportive; at their worst, they keep nagging you about getting a “real” job. Because I currently freelance and mostly work from home, my parents think I’m not really doing anything. They imagine I spend my days applying to 100 jobs online until I hear from someone. This, of course, is not true, but I don’t blame them for thinking that way.

To this day, many employers struggle with trusting their team to work from home. We are living through changes in the workplace and a shift in career perception, but the older generations aren’t catching up fast enough – if they ever will.

Related: Your Dreams Don’t Have to Make Sense to Anyone

If like me, you’ve had to explain what you do to your parents a million times and they still don’t get it, you know how frustrating that can be. You probably had these reactions on many occasions:

Me

Also me

After a while you wonder how many interrogations you can endure before giving up on them completely. What you need to understand first and foremost is this: It’s not their fault. They want to be there for you, but they don’t know how. Even then, the nagging can become downright unbearable. You want to keep doing your thing without shutting them out, but at the same time, you can’t let their expectations distract you.

I hear ya. I’m still going through it, and here’s how I’m dealing with it so far:

Explain your end goal

Any experience can bring you closer to your dreams if you can recognize their value. It’s easier to understand the hustle from this perspective. When it comes to creative fields (or any other fields really), there isn’t a linear path to success. Some people know what they’re meant to do straight out of their mother’s womb while others find their calling later in life. Most millennials experiment with a few gigs before finding what they love. There is no right or wrong way, long as you stay true to yourself. If you can make your parents understand that, they’ll be less likely to question your moves.

Document your wins

I know my parents worry that I’ll end up broke if I don’t have a traditional job, so it’s really important for me to show them that having a 9 to 5 isn’t the only way to make money or be successful. You’ll eventually find out that their biggest concern when it comes to career matters is your financial health. Meaning, it doesn’t matter how you make your money, as long as you can support yourself. Obviously, if you earn an honest living within legal norms.

So, be sure to share every milestone. You got a mention on a major magazine or landed a high-paying client? Let them know! Secured a deal with the very company they’d want you to work for? Even better! Include them in the process as much as possible so that they can see your progress. It will make them trust you more.

Keep calm and carry on

So what you have to tell them a few times before they get it? A mentality is like a habit of thinking and old habits die hard. Be patient enough to explain the generational gap and the new career discourse. If that doesn’t work, show rather than tell them what you’re doing. Maybe a logo you designed or a piece you wrote will do? No job is so abstract that you won’t have anything concrete to present. Even a virtual assistant can point to a project they’ve worked on.

At the end of the day, your parents just want the best for you! They might not agree with your choices, but you don’t have to exclude them from your growth process. The pursuit of your dreams can be a learning experience for all of you.

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