Pieces Of Advice To Make Your Career Skyrocket

Dear Graduate,

Huge congrats on earning your degree. You’ve worked hard, had fun, and hopefully feel ready to take on this next step: launching your career.

It’s exciting, but also daunting. I know that just starting out and earning your own way can be challenging. Maybe you’re still unsure of what you want to do and perhaps you haven’t landed the exact role you want. Don’t despair. Many people will help you along the way—never be afraid to ask for guidance and coaching, people want to provide it. But remember, you are ultimately the driver of your own destiny and you are the one responsible for achieving what you desire.

True story: I started my career as a security guard . The editor of my last book thought this job was so incongruous with where I ended up (as a technology executive, investor and entrepreneur) that she assumed I meant computer security and suggested adding that wording to the manuscript. I don’t mean to date myself, but computer security was just getting started at that time! My job wasn’t glamorous, but it was important. I was protecting the buildings and the people in it. (I also took the flag down at night). But that job turned into other jobs and eventually some very big jobs. How did I do it? When I look back, I distill it down to the following philosophies and practices.

My pieces of advice: 

1. It’s all about integrity. Do what you say. Say what you do. Staying true to your word is essential. If you are not carrying through on your commitments, do you know why, and are you taking the appropriate steps to course correct?

2. Volunteer for the jobs no one else wants. When I was in my late twenties I was starting to get some traction in my career, but I was still far away from landing the job I wanted. I loved watching people lead and knew I wanted to be a manager. There were myriad opportunities that entailed things people didn’t want to do, including getting called into work in the middle of the night, or working weekends. I volunteered, because I was eager to prove myself, and had no illusions that any task was beneath me. I got my first management job, which I coveted and others didn’t because it required working two Saturdays a month and doing payroll rather than managing professionals. A year into that role, I began to manage professional IT workers, and a year after that, IBM promoted me to a middle-management role. Instead of imposing limits on myself by declaring, “I won’t work weekends” or “I only want to work on exciting things,” I remained open to all options and saw them as paths to the potential I was chasing. 

3. Have a great attitude. You might be brilliant, but if you are hard to manage, it’s easy to find someone else. Be fun and easy to work with. 

4. Be brutally honest with yourself. Be harder on yourself than anyone else will be on you. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

5. Don’t confuse action for traction. Realize that just because you’re busy, it doesn’t mean you’re making forward progress. You have to focus on the right things. Therefore, it’s necessary to organize and prioritize in order to achieve the right outcomes. How do you do that?

‣ Iterate and test your way into knowing what success really looks like.

‣ Once that is clear, double down, move fast, and execute.

6. Pick your battles. There are a million things to be upset about in any work situation; fight only about things that are really important and that will move the needle.

7. Work for a higher purpose. When I worked at eBay, we didn’t see our work as selling stuff from people’s attics. We viewed it as creating e-commerce and empowering a generation of entrepreneurs. No matter what your job is, understand that its impact is broader than making money. Then, you will find more meaning in what you do every day, and a higher purpose will guide you through the inevitable tough days. 

8. Have fun. Those who spend their time working on things they love are the ones enjoying life the most. Don’t be afraid take a risk to chase your dreams. 

Finally, believe in yourself. Every time you hear yourself say, ‘I can’t,’ dive in and ask, ‘Why? What are the reasons I can’t?’ Upon introspection, you might realize that many of the things you feel are holding you back, exist nowhere but in your head. All of us possess a potential that is boundless. Every time you push against it, it expands. I can’t wait to see how far you go.

All my best,

Danurugwo

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