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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How to Find What Connects All Your Passions

Being a multipotentialite can make you feel paralyzed at times. The ability to do many different things, the passion for a variety of subjects and the fear of missing out can all act as detractors to your genius. Integrating your different passions and interests into a meaningful career path can seem like an impossible task.

If you’re like any other multi-passionate creative, the following scenario should be familiar. You start a project and get really excited about it. Then you think of a few other things and start to feel overwhelmed because you don’t know how to distribute your time or what’s even worth allocating time to. Analysis paralysis sets in and you start to wish you weren’t so different.

Being a multipotentialite is nothing to feel guilty about. On one hand you will always have options, but on the other, you might feel like you’re not effectively using your potential because you’re interested in almost everything. But believe it or not, there’s an overarching theme in all your passions. Finding that point of intersection can help bring everything together and give you a better sense of direction.
Here are three questions to ask yourself in order to figure out where all your passions connect:

How do I want to impact the world?

You can think about this in different ways. What causes do you care about? Alleviating poverty? Increasing literacy? Protecting the environment? At the end of your life, how would you want to be remembered? How can you use your skills to get to that point?
There are two types of multipotentialites: the ones who can do different things within a particular field and the ones who juggle projects in unrelated domains.
Suppose you’re a psychotherapist who helps young adults face the hurdles of growing up. On top of your full-time job, you have a podcast, blog and YouTube channel, and also host workshops where you share what you know in a digestible way. If we take a closer look at all your gigs, the overarching theme is helping people. How are you doing that? Mostly through education. This tells us how you want to be remembered. As someone who positively impacted people’s lives. Keeping the end in mind helps make sense of the process.
Now, imagine you’re an architect, guitar player and standup comedian. Harder to figure out what connects these interests right? The overarching theme could be that you’re most passionate about delighting people. Whether you give aesthetic pleasure through your architectural designs, stimulate the brain through your compositions and making people laugh with your jokes.
As long as your activities are connected to your overarching goal, they don’t have to make sense to people. The important thing is to do some soul searching and really figure out what matters to you. Don’t worry about people not understanding your dreams or naysayers discrediting your process. You owe it to yourself to pursue everything that gets you fired up.

What can I not live without doing?

For me, the answer is reading and writing. When I read, I’m inspired to keep producing. Even when I was taking science classes in college, I always made sure to add a creative writing class to stimulate that other side of me.
Being aware of what you can’t do without is important in prioritizing. It also allows you to incorporate that into everything you do. Whether I’m taking pictures or producing videos, I know I’m still telling stories. It might be my overarching theme, but it’s what brings everything together for me.
Think about activities that always somehow find their way into your day to day. They may be things you do on your free time and that you also do to some extent at work or for your side hustles. They will tell you more about who you are than anything else.

Will this bring me closer to my long-term vision in a few years?

You only have so many hours in the day, so it’s important to get the most out of all them. Over time, I’ve learned to be selective with the responsibilities I take on. I’d say passion is the most deciding factor, but there’s also the question of what’s in it for me. If a job will not contribute to my life in any other way than monetary, I’ll usually go for something more meaningful. Similarly, I get a lot of ideas but I can’t physically pursue all of them because I’ll only be interested in some for a very short time.
If your big goal is to become the editor-in-chief of a digital magazine, the following are all things that can take you closer to it over time:
a. Starting a blog (because you’ll get the hands-on experience of creating content, managing a team of writers etc.)
b. Work at a magazine (because you’ll see the ins and outs of what that’s really like)
c. Freelance write for digital publications (for the network and skill set)
d. Take a coding class (because some technical knowledge can never hurt)
I could go on, but the point is to become more intentional about the things you allocate your time to. Ask yourself how important it is and if it’ll continue to matter then go full throttle in the direction of your goals.
Being multi-passionate isn’t always easy to manage. You’re constantly reinventing yourself or learning more about what’s really important to you. But some regular soul searching should make the journey easier.

What’s the overarching theme behind all your passions? Let me know in the comments!

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Tell Me How You Spend Your Days and I’ll Tell You Who You’ll Become

The good news is, you have the same 24 hours as every successful person you know. The difference though might be that they spend this time more wisely.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to monitor the things I allocate my time to and make adjustments so that my everyday behavior reflects what I want out of life. In other words, I have to make sure my daily actions are in line with my long-term goals.

The thing that most people don’t understand is that they build their career daily. You carve your own path with every decision you make and action you take.

How do you spend your days? Do you go to work and come home to watch TV before bed? This must mean you’re satisfied with your job and happy with your life. Do you make time to go to networking events after work? Then you probably want to take your career to the next step or continue your professional development. Do you spend your 5 to 9 volunteering or working on your creative projects – whether that’d be writing a book, filming and editing videos, painting, making beaded bracelets etc.? Then you have something you’re passionate about and showing the world what you care about. Do you stay home and binge watch shows on Netflix or mindlessly browse the Internet?

If you do something well and consistently, it will become your reality. Habits develop as a result of doing something long enough. They become the building blocks of your long-term behavior. This in turn determines the course of your life. If you’re unhappy with where you are, figure out what’s wrong and make concrete changes to fix it. Pay attention to your habits and what you naturally spend your time doing. Eliminate distractions and focus. This isn’t to say that you can’t occasionally take breaks and binge watch episodes of Peaky Blinders (*cough*). However, maintaining a balance is healthy.

A full-time blogger didn’t just write one blog post to reach that level of success. A milestone can take years of dedication, smart investments, strategic thinking and planning.

Take a look at your life now. Have your actions brought you closer to your goals? Are you repeating mistakes and expecting to see different results? Focus on what you can control – your thoughts, your actions. I guarantee you the rest will fall into place.

So, what did you do today? Or better yet, what will you do tomorrow?

What if you had the courage to pursue the things you love? What’s holding you back from living your dreams?  Let me know how I can help in the comments. For more articles like these, subscribe to my newsletter.