10 “age old” career advice you should ignore
I’m 32, recently unemployed, with a rapidly depleting savings account.
I’m in a yoga retreat in Thailand to unwind all the stiff muscle joints I locked while hunched over a desk 8 hours a day.
I’m writing this on a beach. My phone’s pinging with messages of friends’ updates on their work day. I forgot it’s Monday afternoon and that I kinda hate the beach but I am here because the alternative was my couch.
Because I have all the time in the world now to think about things and not be bitter about any of them, I recently re-looked at and shed 10 pieces of advice I received when I was starting out — things you shouldn’t listen to today.
1. People sieve out “job-hoppers” when they recruit.
I thought I got smart with this one. The longest job I’d stayed in — four years — was one I made sure offered different challenges year on year so I was not stagnant in a role while committed.
What I came to realise was, same shit different day. Sure I tackled different challenges which were hugely beneficial to my overall growth, but the minute I was good at a piece of work I was pigeonholed. It also didn’t help being in the advertising industry, which was notoriously traditional and slow to change. The environment didn’t change, so I didn’t learn anything additional. I learned to adapt.
Varied environments (startups vs traditional, large MNCs vs boutique) and jumping into adjacent industries exposes you to much more than staying put in one job.
2. People hire for experience.
Experience does matter, but I’ve come to learn it does not matter as much as mindset. You will get experience in time no matter what and you can’t roll the clock forwards. A fixed mindset however is hard to change.
3. Be extroverted.
What we understand of extroverts vs introverts is fairly poor — they’re not the difference between loud or shy people. It is how you process stimuli and thereafter recharge yourself.
Introverts, which is what I am, gain their energy from within, needing time alone to recharge from social circles where most of our energy drains into. Extroverts, as you may have guessed, are primarily fuelled from interactions with other people. Being the “life of the party” everyone knows is one way of getting attention, but it doesn’t mean slow, steady introverts won’t be recognised for their abilities.
4. Wear heels in important meetings to project power and professionalism.
Didn’t we all think this at some point of time in our careers when we saw images of high-powered women executives in their black outfits and 4" stilettos? There are industries that still require women to dress to a certain standard, but this is an outdated piece of advice to offer any woman today.
I love clothes and fashion for the way they frame a woman’s confidence, but let’s not forget it’s generated from within.
5. “People leave bosses not companies”.
A great boss or leader goes without saying is one of the key factors many people find satisfaction in their jobs. But gone are the days when you are hog-tied to a particular position or role in a company if you find yourself under a tyrannical boss or a boss who overlooks their role in helping you achieve success and to grow. In my early jobs, my options were — quit, and the day I quit, tell my boss they’re a terrible leader. *mic drop* But that’s not the way to confront problems. In my later years I learned to voice and resolve conflict amongst team and superiors directly. Give people a chance, and be the person that brings it.
6. Join a well-known company.
This one is a mixed bag, because there’s a ton of benefits to be had in being in an established organisation. If Google wants to hire you, you say yes right? But the mindset isn’t only great, large companies are worth seeking out. Sometimes they’re so large and so set in their ways, it’s hard to experiment or manoeuvre. You get that chance in smaller companies where you can really experiment and build your portfolio.
7. Build a CV.
Build your persona and your portfolio, not just a CV. Be someone others recognise and want in their companies, not the other way around. A CV becomes a due diligence for recruitment.
8. It’s easier to seek employment overseas when you’re more experienced.
If you’re in the market to explore and learn from various environments it’s easier to move when you’re younger because you’re a cheaper hire. This gives you plenty more opportunity. When you become much more of a financial investment companies are less likely to risk moving you. Furthermore, there’s pressure on HR to either source talent from within the company’s ranks or to hire locally. Outside of a glaring gap or specialised skill set, you’re the last option.
9. Build a career.
A career is a bit of a dirty word. It imbues in people a sense of inadequacy when they don’t have it, or if they just have a “job”. In the two months since being made redundant from Uber in the sale of its South-East Asian operations, I’ve come to see a career as a noose, dangled behind a monthly paycheck.
Think about the answer you give when someone asks you, “what do you do?” Is your answer driven by the thrill of a sizeable annual salary? When I travelled to the Nordics we engaged with people who were more inclined to ask “what are your passions?” That’s a far more interesting thing to know about yourself and to ask of others.
10. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.
Yes, but also, you can make opportunities happen for yourself. A self-starter mentality was not in the “Asian tiger mom’s guide to raising kids”. Chiefly, the step by step guideline is 1) study hard 2) go to a good school 3) get a good stable job like lawyer, doctor or accountant. I failed on all 3 if you must know, nailing the proverbial coffin when I dropped out of accounting early in my studies.
Thereafter I got caught up in the corporate wheel of chasing a title, an outrageous paycheck, self-worth in a career. Seeing where I am now (“figuring it out”) it doesn’t sound premature for my mother to self-righteously declare she was right all along. But the ability to navigate life and carve out a niche for yourself is a much more rewarding journey than wads of cash (I tear a little as I count my pennies by the beach on Monday afternoon) and being stuck in a job you hate.
They always said, wrap up a meeting with “next steps”, so here you are:
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