For most of this month, we’ve been examining quotes that will hopefully serve our high school and college graduates well as they make their way in the world. If you’re one of these fine young adults, first, congratulations! Whatever your transition will be in the coming weeks – maybe you’ve got the summer off before going to college, or you’re taking time to travel before starting a new career, or even if you’re heading full stride right into a new job after graduation – these quotes can serve as “knowledge nuggets” that you will hopefully store in that jam-packed brain of yours and pull them out when needed.
For the past two weeks, we’ve unpacked the following quotes:
“Your network will become increasingly important as you progress in your career. Once you build a reputation and build the right contacts, then you’ll never have to apply for a job again — opportunities will come to you. When you encounter an interesting person, grab their e-mail and add their info into a master list of network contacts. Write an annual e-mail during the holidays to your master list to keep your contacts warm and updated; you’ll be amazed how effective this tactic is.” - Eric Bahn, Product Manager at Facebook and cofounder of Hustlecon.
“Relax. Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow. Down the road, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.” - George Stephanopoulos, ABC News chief anchor; co-anchor of “Good Morning America.
“There has never been an easier time to start a business. There are so many free online tools. Just start, and if you fail you can always go and get a normal job, but you will learn so much along the way it will be a great experience.” - Hermione Way, Founder of WayMedia; Star of Bravo’s “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley”
“If you want to do your own startup, you don’t need a job to get experience first. You will learn faster doing your own thing than working at some entry-level job. You will make mistakes (lots of them), but that is all part of the learning process. If you want to learn to swim, don’t be afraid of getting wet.” - Patrick Lee, Cofounder and former CEO of Rotten Tomatoes
The first two were about the importance of networking and saving a few bucks for retirement starting on DAY ONE! of your working life. The second pair shared a more common theme: taking a risk on your greatest asset…you! We finish up with the following two quotes focus on the power of learning, both from the job itself and the people in your work life:
“My advice for people starting out in this industry is always this: (a) Do what you love to do, a lot, for free, until you get great at it. (b) Get any job you can somewhere you’d like to work — no matter how stupid it seems at the time.” - Sam Reich, Head of Original Video at CollegeHumor
“Focus on finding roles where you can learn, grow, and develop most. Make sure you work for someone you admire, and that your manager can be a mentor and champion for you in your career today but also for the years to come.” - Katrina Lake, CEO of Stitch Fix
I mentioned in last week’s article that many of us have probably seen the following often-quoted statistics: most of us will have seven different careers over our lifetimes and we will also have 10 different jobs before we turn 40 years old. Just a couple generations ago, workers had a tendency to stay put for longer periods of time. My father made only one career change, from working in the finance department of DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware to the oil and gas industry when he was transferred down to Houston, Texas. My father-in-law worked for GTE for 35 years, working his way up from being a lineman to a management position before retiring. We don’t hear as many of those stories about that kind of longevity with one company or even one or two industries any more. Nowadays, the median number of years that wage and salary workers have been with their current employer is 4.2 years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Plus, with unemployment hovering at all-time lows, if we don’t like the job we have, odds are we can get another one fairly quickly.
But if we really examine what Reich and Lake are telling us in the last two quotes, I think that the message is clear: stay put, at least for a while. I think that in terms of our working life, we’re too quick to jump ship these days. We’re too apt to look for the greener pastures at the first sign of a negative situation, when it might just do our careers, not to mention our personal lives, a real service to stick it out where we are and work on our conflict resolution skills.
I also think that we need to experience some more longevity at our jobs just so we can get some much needed experience in one place. Especially if we’re just starting out, it would be great to start off at the ground floor and get to know the ins and outs of a business as we work our way up. This timeframe doesn’t necessarily need to take 35 years, like in my father-in-law’s case. But it will certainly take more than 12 months.
Finally, like Lake said, having a trusted mentor is a must. We all need guidance from time to time. In our personal lives, it might be a parent or trusted friend. At work, it might be a senior member of your organization or someone who is in the same professional development organization. It could also be someone in a completely different industry that you meet at a chamber of commerce meeting or business happy hour with whom you just click. Whoever this person is, it’s important to have them in your life to bounce ideas off of about your career path. And even though they’re your mentor, remember no successful relationship is a one way street. Be there for them as well.