Welcome to the city! You are fresh out of school with the world ahead of you. You’re starting a new job and things seem bright, but uncertain. You think you know way more than you do – and you have way more opinions than you do experience. That is ok, life will humble you.
I want to share with you a few things that would have helped me when I was that age, even though you probably won’t listen.
“Effort” Is the Language; Work Harder Not Smarter
If you develop any reputation in the office, make sure that it is the one as being the “work horse.” Dependable, disciplined, “keeps his word,” professional, on-time, put-together – these are the words you want associated with you when you start a new position. Your job can always change, but your reputation stays with you.
Enter each situation with an open mind and see how you can outwork the person you were yesterday. You don’t know what you are doing yet and THAT IS OK!
If you are starting in a new role in sales or recruiting, be the guy who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. What I mean by that is that you will HAVE to be ok with calling lots of people, getting rejected, messaging tons of people, getting rejected, and being told “NO” more often that you think you ought to. At first, you will stumble on the phone, not ask the right questions, call the wrong candidates/customers, and have terrible wording at first. Again, THAT IS OK.
It is after a “few rounds in the ringer” that you will be tempted to look for shortcuts, for the “perfect program”, for “optimization” at work, training, and everything that you do. Sadly, those don’t exist.
There are many guidelines and programs for your career, exercise (lifting, cardio, sport), skill (music, craft, writing, etc.), and life in general, that can be used successfully. It is what YOU put into them that makes them work. If you work brutally hard at a simple concept and have some sense of self-awareness, optimization will naturally happen over time.
Streamlining and having an efficient process is a natural byproduct of work + self-awareness. But you must work HARD before you can work SMART.
There will be times when you feel lost, beat up, lacking direction, and having no idea where you will end up. In fact, there will be lots of those times. That is OK! (see the trend here?) The more you lean into the work, focus on the controllables, and build steady momentum, the “fog” becomes clearer over time.
I seem to notice a pattern in that, if you work brutally hard at something for some time (it could be weeks, months, or even years) and focus your efforts on improving 1-2 areas of your life – then, the fickleness, flakiness, ambivalence, uncertainty, wishy-washiness, and “I don’t know if this is my perfect job” thoughts slowly fade away. After going “all in” on something, your instincts kick in at a certain point.
You can trust your gut more and harbor this sense of peace that if, and when, it is time to move on, you just know.
If you ask most successful people in business who have been at this for 20+ years if their first position in the work force was their “ideal job”, they would most likely chuckle. What you will notice, however, if you look at their history, is a long “chain” of opportunities connected.
What tends to happen is that they worked hard at one thing for a certain time until another, better opportunity opened. Then, they followed those opportunities to lead to another opportunity, which slowly, but surely lead them up to another opportunity. So and so forth – you get the idea.
Success is nothing other than a large string of opportunities connected, and followed to a natural completion….with a lot of adversity and failures underneath it.
The point I’m trying to make is to not be so quick to dismiss what is in front of you as a stepping stone to get where you want to go. Often, what you will find is that the “answer” to your current problems is not to completely change course (although this helps sometimes), but rather to focus on what is in front of you with more intention, discipline, and thoroughness.
Are you showing up on time? Are you listening to customers when you speak to them? Are you proofreading your messages? Are you present when you are with your family? Are you respectful? Are you making enough calls?
Many times, doing the things you already do even better will be the difference between an ok year and an incredible one.
Keep Pillars – AKA – Have a Life Outside of Work
When things are especially tumultuous in your life, having 1-3 “pillars” will be essential. Maybe work is not going well, finances are tight, your car broke down, or you got rejected by the barista that you had a crush on, etc. Having a discipline outside of work can be a source of great comfort in these times. I call these “pillars” as they can provide framework in everything that you do.
These pillars can be hobbies, church community/faith groups, family, sports, training, reading/books, music, handy-work – anything that requires consistent commitment that is different than your day job. Having a routine, practice, and discipline can be incredibly calming in a world that is often chaotic and outside of your control.
If you always squat (bar on your back, go up and down) on Saturday mornings, and you stayed out late drinking with your co-workers the night before, you still show up on Saturday to squat, hungover or not. When you feel like junk mid-training session, that will be your lesson that maybe 11 beers the night before was not the best idea.
All jokes aside, the fact that you still showed up to the gym means it is important to you, a pillar. The same goes with faith, family events, and skill-building (if those are your pillars). Make the time for these things and structure everything else around them.
Read a Lot…. But Don’t Forget to Act
You live in an age of technology, so you will be bombarded constantly with videos, posts, and messages about self-improvement. I will tell you this – be open, but selective about the information that you take in.
It is extremely easy to fall into the habit of watching motivational video after video, and even reading self-help books with the goal of self-improvement. What you may notice is that these make you feel good for a little bit of time…and then when the “fuzzy feeling” of motivation fades, you’re back to where you started.
If you look very closely, you will notice a few underlying self-improvement principles that stand the test of time throughout the “noise” of information. Instead of reading every new book you see on the Bestseller’s list or every single “I tried X diet for 30 days and it changed my life” article, try this:
Read 1 book that’s a timeless classic, (like Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, or Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”), take notes, highlight, write in the margins, re-read, and even read it again.
Then, go out into the world and practice what you learned 99 times, make a bunch of mistakes, self-evaluate, and self-correct. This one book, followed by massive action, will produce more changes in your mindset and growth than hundreds of pump-up videos with flashy music will.
Confidence Comes from Momentum, Failures, and Humble Pie
How do you remain confident to tackle this full life that you are building?
One common piece of advice that is often told to gain confidence is to “look in the mirror” and say something along the lines of “you’re awesome” and then you are magically confident. Unfortunately, this just hasn’t worked for me.
That deep confidence that you feel to your core? That quiet “unrattled-ness”? That “presence” that those rare individuals who walk into a room just have? That only comes through practice, repetition, skill building, and having a track record of winning. And for every win, there are many, many, many more losses behind them.
This bears repeating – to gain confidence, you must win and lose, a lot.
If you are out there taking massive action (at work, in the gym, in your hobbies, etc.), you will have failed many times and have been humbled even more along the way. Again and again and again. The dichotomy is this: the HUMBLER you become, the more deeply confident you will also become.
You can’t have confidence just because you tell yourself that you have it. Sometimes just knowing what defeat tastes and feels like gives you this unspoken mantra of: “I’ve been there before, and I will be ok no matter what.”
Embrace the Storms Ahead
The final thing I want to tell you is to not wish for an easier life, or a less challenging one, but that you become more resilient to take on those challenges. Once you shift from this mental model of wishing for an easier life to looking forward to the trials that lay ahead, you will come out on the other side with a more secure perspective, and a gratitude for any challenges you had faced. I promise life will not get easier, you will just become a better you.
I hope that my 30-something year old “wisdom” did not bore you too much, but hopefully you won’t have to learn ALL of these lessons the hard way. Now go off, squat, and get rejected.
About the Author
Sr. Clinical Recruiter