I have been working for as long as I have been able to. My first job was at Nordstrom, and my second job was at a law firm. This was not your typical high school student job, but I have always found joy in working hard.
When you have been in the real world of business for a while, you learn things. Sometimes you learn them the hard way. If I could tell my younger self all of the things I ended up learning the hard way, I’m sure I could have saved myself a whole lot of pain, panic, and maybe a few ulcers.
So, hello, younger Sarah! You’ve got a long, awesome career ahead of you, but there are a few bumps along the way I want you to avoid as you navigate this crazy awesome business world.
Always, always, ALWAYS have a backup! There will be a moment in your career that you will not have a good backup of all of your company’s files. This mistake will cost the company you work for $11,000 in data recovery services!! Not only is it a good lesson as an IT manager, it’s a good lesson for all of your business dealings. If you are going to be editing important files, have a backup. If you are going into an important meeting with a presentation on a USB drive, have a backup. Whatever it is you do, having a backup is a safety net that can get you through some very last minute emergencies.
If you no longer enjoy your job, find another one, NOW. I know you hate confrontation, but quitting a job is not the end of the world, and the other party will get over it, probably pretty quickly too. You do not need to stay in a job that you hate. There are at least two instances of this in your career where you will be miserable every single day for far too long, just because you hate being in awkward conversations. When you no longer enjoy what you are doing, I guarantee you aren’t putting forth your best effort. You do not want to be a mediocre employee, and that’s exactly what you are when you aren’t enjoying what you do.
Take your vacation days. You may think you are being lame, or “not a team player” by taking the vacation days and sick days that are available to you. What happens, though, when you just work constantly and never take a break? You can get burned out from your job way too easily. Everyone needs a break from time to time, no matter how much you enjoy your job and what you do.
Make sure expectations are clear. Throughout your career you will be assigned a plethora of tasks (I really like saying the word plethora.) Some tasks you will knock right out of the park, and some will be so far off the mark that you’ll leave some people thinking “what in the world was that??” When you are assigned a task, and you aren’t completely sure what it is all about, get clarification before you just think you know. It will also work the other way. When you assign tasks to others, make sure they know exactly what they are supposed to do, and how to do it.
It’s okay to say you don’t know how to do something. Especially in the world of technology, you want to be the answer to every question. You think that you can learn how to do whatever is being asked of you. The truth is that it will probably take you so much longer to accomplish those tasks because you don’t really know how to do them. If you just state up front that you don’t currently know how to do something, but you are willing to learn how to do it, it just may take you longer, but people will respect your honesty. It will save you a lot of frustration trying to accomplish something you don’t know how to do in such a short period of time.
So, Sarah, take it from me. You don’t want to re-learn these lessons. While it’s good that you know these things now, if you could have avoided the pain of learning them the hard way,you may have a much better time getting to where you are now. Good luck! You’ll do great!
This post is part of BlogHer’s Success Tips For My Younger Self editorial series, made possible by Kaplan.