What I wish I knew before University (2): Career development

In this second post I want to share with you some of the lessons I learned about how to lay grounds for a good career. I tried to make these non-standard advises, that come straight from my own experience and can be applied to any type of career. Whether you are still at university or already working, I hope you get the best out of what you are doing. Note that these are my own personal learnings, in the end you make your decisions for yourself and with your own background in mind. 

1 – Get to know yourself

I have already talked about this point in the first post, here in a different context. Thing is, not everybody can do the same thing and follow the same career path and be happy with it. You are unique in your situation and your background. The best thing you can do is finding out what you really like, apart from expectations of others, and then fit that into your needs and your situation as much as possible. I have already seen unhappy people following paths they don’t like just to make a good impression on others, or to not disappoint somebody. And those people had or have the choice to change. I expect to see a lot more of those, I am just at the beginning of my career. And I expect (but certainly do hope I am wrong) them to regret that later.

2 – Network, network, network

This is the point I am guilty of having underestimated the most, and I cannot stress its importance enough. No matter where you’re from or what your aim is, networking always makes sense, out of the following reasons:

  1. The people around you are your best source of information, and everybody knows something you don’t.
  2. In case of hard times you have better security.
  3. Career is about opportunity as well (even for programmers and engineers). Your network delivers you opportunity.
  4. Getting to know people is like a snowball effect. The more you know the more they will expose you to new possible acquaintances. And who knows who you’re going to meet like this?
  5. Knowing people makes us feel connected, which for most of us is fundamental for a happy life.

3 – Invest in meta-skills

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

No one really wins by brute forcing (trust me, I tried). If you want to gain something, starting is often the hardest part, but then refining how we get better at working towards that can make the whole process a whole lot easier. For me for example learning is an essential pillar of my progress, and working on my learning skills will pay off greatly.

4 – Check out events and engage in club activities

University itself offers plenty of opportunity to test ourselves in context with other people, especially through clubs and social activities. Attend career events, engage in clubs and circles and learn. For me it appears my graduate times were the last opportunity to have so many people in my daily surroundings for a long time to come.

5 – Try yourself out and build into a direction

Every stage of life is unique in its own, and has features none of the others have. Our twenties are the best playground to experiment with ourselves and make mistakes, since those are the easiest ones to be forgotten. Whether you want to set off abroad without a clear purpose, try out your own business or swap career, now is the best time. And if you already know what you want, it pays off to build into that direction steadily. Even if it is wrong, we can always change. Nevertheless, it is best to know and think early about what we actually want, even if that may change later in life.

6 – If you go the extra mile, make sure somebody sees

Being ambitious often means walking an extra mile here and there. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that, just make sure it benefits you somehow if you have a goal in mind. Try to make your efforts visible for others to see to set your profile apart, for example via a Udemy- or Coursera course rather than an extra course at university that no one notices. Get certificates if possible, and celebrate your small successes as well. They will motivate you to go further.

7 – Understand how you recharge and do it

After all the hard work and efforts we spend on building a better tomorrow we all deserve some time to relax and recharge energy, so we’d better understand what that means for us. Although for most people I met this appears obvious, I have also met a few for whom it is not. The basic distinction lies in between whether we recharge when meeting people, or when we’re alone. Then it becomes a matter of how often we want to meet people and what we’re gonna do then, and what we do when we are alone. If you don’t know yet what works for you, you need to find out, and breaking habits once in a while for a moment to try something new hurts in the fewest cases. In fact that often is when life comes around to surprise us the most. And that is already joy enough sometimes!

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