24 May What you should know when starting out in your career
Starting out in your career can be terrifying. It’s a new world that you’re stepping into from being a student. There is so much that you should know going into the working world but here are 4 things I wish someone would’ve told me before heading out into the working world.
1. It’s okay not to have a 5-year plan, at least not at the beginning
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I had a lot of people telling and expecting me to have a fully fleshed out career plan going in. I started my corporate career at age 22 and the pressure to have it all figured out got to me at some points. It gave me so much anxiety knowing that I was going into corporate without that 5/10/15 year plan that everyone would talk about. And how could I? What are the chances that you know exactly what your plan is at that age?
If you happen to have it all figured out, then great but if you don’t that’s also okay.
2. Raise your hand
If you don’t try it how will you know that it’s not for you? The more you do, the more you can figure out what you do and what you don’t like, what your strengths and weaknesses are. This helps you get closer to having a clearer vision and path of what your future career could look like. I volunteered for several communities and initiatives at work and through, for example, joining the Newsletter committee I realized that I enjoy having very creative elements and understanding people as part of my work. A few years later I am now certified in usability and UI and managed to advocate for my current role where I get to work closely with designers on mobile front-end design work. FYI, for context, I am a Digital Business Analyst by profession (comment below if you’d like to know more about this job).
3. Figure out what’s important to you.
It’s okay if the answer to this is money. We live in a country where most of us come from hard backgrounds so don’t be shy to admit to yourself that right now what you need is money. What’s important to you could also be travel, exploring different parts of the world. It could be flexible work, this could be in terms of time or location. It could be benefits like medical aid that covers mental health.
You don’t have to always tell your boss this but you must know for yourself. Once you’ve figured out what matters most to you, you can better negotiate. It will help you when it’s time to make strategic moves in your career or when you are fielding different job opportunities and so much more and you will be surprised at how many companies are willing to let you explore your interests and support your goals.
In my case, one of the most important things to me is working in an environment that is flexible enough to allow me to be able to work on my side passions. I need to be able to be open about everything else I do without a feeling of judgement and potentially even be supported in my endeavours and to be trusted enough to be open about what I do while the company still understands that it will not compromise my work output.
I’ve worked in both environments and I can easily tell you that I stayed no more than 5 months at the job where I wasn’t supported. I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me because I knew what was important to me.
In my current role, all new joiners receive a notebook with a personalized note from the CEO and him mentioning She Brigade in his note to me, I immediately knew I was at the right place.
4. Networking looks different to everyone
If you’re introverted like me the idea of networking must be sending you into a spiral. Everyone told me to network. I immediately thought of networking as attending events, constantly trying to make small talk with everyone, being everywhere and on everyone’s radar. While that is a form of networking, there are also so many other ways to do it. In my case, one of the ways I networked was by starting a newsletter together with a friend. We ended up being a team of 4 with different people rotating in and out of the team over the years. I would also ask people, one at a time for advice on different work scenarios while grabbing a cup of coffee. Ask friends and other colleagues to introduce you to contacts. That’s also networking, building strong professional and social connections with people.
Like I said before, try new and different things and over time you’ll know what interests you and what doesn’t and if corporate events don’t interest you, then don’t go. You’re probably not the only one, there’s something out there that will get you closer and connected to the right people.
I hope this post has shed some light on a few things to think about whether you are starting out in your career or just looking back and assessing your career now.
If you liked this post, read this one too: Are you standing in your own way?