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May 17, 2017

5 Things I Wish I Had Known in the First 5 Years of My Career

3 mins read

If you’re just starting your career, wouldn’t you wish for some advice on how to navigate the work place? The habits you build during your first years will shape your career. So, taking the time to invest in building on a few healthy habits could go a long way.

Here are snippets from a conversation I had, along with Amy Oliver, a former Department of Justice attorney, with Young Professionals at a Women in Technology career event.

1. Manage expectations

Amy– Confidence is great but don’t start out in a job thinking you know everything. Defer not only to leadership but also to colleagues and you will gain knowledge, skills, and support.  You may also get better assignments in the long run.

Noura– Prioritize your work. Being a consultant is a highly demanding job. What helped me most is understanding my priorities. Sometimes this means that you have to work with your supervisor to clarify expectations and tasks, and prioritize them.

A little extra– Don’t apologize routinely but rather explain and, if necessary, repair. Specifically, women who apologize as a matter of course are viewed as weak.

2. Incorporate balance

Amy– Curiosity rules. Take online classes. Consider training opportunities in your organization. Explore the world. Take up new hobbies. Write poetry. Don’t get so caught up in your career that you lose sight of what is around you.

Noura– Don’t multitask. Another tip that helped me “survive” the consulting world is to learn how to manage my time. By not multitasking and limiting the “work in progress”, I could give my best to the task at hand. Sticky notes help me stay focused: I write my tasks on sticky notes, one task per sticky; then I work on one sticky at a time.

A little extra– Take time off. And when you do, disconnect! Truly disconnect! Be mindful of communicating clear Expectations to your clients and co-workers. Setup a clear out-of-office message with dates you’ll be out and a person to contact in your place. And enjoy your time off!

3. Be involved with your co-workers

Amy– Support yourself by supporting others. You likely listen carefully when a supervisor speaks but what about colleagues, including support staff? I’ve learned a great deal and gained considerable support from a wide range of co-workers.

Noura– Learn from the leaders around you. I look up at leaders I admire and try to emulate their behavior. I also look at leaders who sometimes make my job more challenging, and learn what not to emulate.

A little extra– Seek out a mentor, even if there is no official mentorship program in your organization. Mentors who trust you and your work are golden.

4. Continue to learn and grow

Amy– Raise your hand. Employees who contribute in unexpected ways or show initiative tend to be greatly appreciated, gain transferable skills, and avoid being pigeonholed. Find new ways to invigorate your workday and show your value by raising your hand for a variety of assignments, projects, working groups, etc.

 Noura– Learn, always. Going back to school after many years in the work field was challenging and extremely gratifying for me. Always be open to explore new ideas, the opportunities to learn are endless and don’t stop after graduation. Find MeetUps in your area, Webinars you’re interested in, or grab a book from the library…

A little extra– New jobs require uncompensated research. Explore the organization and understand its roles, offices, mission, and leadership. You may find help or resources from unexpected places. While you’re exploring and growing, always be mindful of the Balance elements.

5. Be mindful of your career path

Amy– Trust your intuition and don’t stay too long when it isn’t right for you or you may end up wearing velvet handcuffs.

Noura– Do a career shift – anytime. That is, of course, while being mindful about your decision. Shifting my career from a software developer to a business analyst and Agile advocate re–energized me. It’s true that it’s never too late to follow your passion!

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