As an online college professor, I receive many emails from students asking for career advice. In fact, when I served as department chair for the School of Business at a university, one of my duties was to meet with students to discuss how the program they selected could translate to a good job. I’ve been fortunate to have worked at some major companies, such as Shell Oil Company, Prudential, and USSA. Because of this experience, I have a good idea of what employers desire from the candidates they interview for key positions within the organization.
Decide what you want to do.
Before anyone can provide career advice, it’s important that each of us knows exactly the type of work that we want to do. If we’re unsure regarding what makes us happy, any recommendation is going to fall short of expectations. While attending undergraduate school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, I realized that my future was in education. In other words, I was going to share knowledge with people who wanted to learn. While I started teaching at Houston Community College, I later realized that my instruction skills were also in demand as a corporate trainer, which expanded advancement opportunities.
If you are unhappy with your current career, take action today to make a move. This doesn’t mean that you will submit your later of resignation tomorrow morning, but it does mean that you are going to start the process to make the change. Many of you are probably doing that right now by pursing a degree, earning a professional certification, and gaining work experience.
Don’t be afraid to take an entry level job.
Most people are unwilling to change careers because it feels like they are starting brand new. Doing something else for a living might mean that one must accept an entry level job, which might be necessary. However, because of your experience, and your passion to do well, promotions will come faster. If the pay differential is too big, I recommend putting money aside that will allow you to maintain a similar lifestyle until the compensation in your new job catches-up. You will undoubtedly have to make some sacrifices, but being happy about your career is worth it. The opposite is that you keep working where you are even though you can’t stand it.
Make sure to focus on the long-term benefits.
It’s human nature to expect good results as fast as possible. The most successful people are usually 40-years and older. The reason people earn more money with age is because the work experience they have is invaluable. These folks have learned how to make tough decisions even when insufficient data is available. With experience, we also learn how to communicate with different types of stakeholders, ranging from frontline personnel to the executives.
Please know that I’m making a general comment about how work experience can lead to good results. I do understand that some young people are doing super-well today, especially because they possess strong technical skills. However, company leaders are looking for candidates who have a macro or big picture understanding of the organization. These skills are earned over many years of trial-and-error.
The takeaway here is that once you are clear with your career of choice, make sure you’re 100% committed. The mistakes you make today will pay off down the road because you will know what doesn’t work.