(TL;DR: Unlearn these 5 things to change your career prospects (AND LIFE!) completely.)
This is it, you’ve finally made it into working life, and the world is your oyster. You’re finally done with school, and you’re at peak potential in your career path. We’ve all been that fresh-faced graduate with something to prove, but as we continue working, we begin to see that things aren’t the way we imagined. In fact, many of us find ourselves become discouraged and feel uncertain very early in our career.
What we don’t realise is that as a 20-something working adult, we’ve been taught things about work and career that end up holding us back. They may be taught to us by the generation before us, the media we consume, or even what we observe from our peers. To keep yourself from falling into this trap, here are the top 5 things we need to unlearn right now to truly get ahead in our career.
Myth 1: The only qualifications you need are the academic kind.
Our parents have told us time and time again that getting that degree, masters, PhD and so on is our best bet to getting that dream job. However, paper qualifications aren’t the only things that can help your job along. And academic excellence just ain’t for everyone.
Whether it is working on side-projects, building up a relevant portfolio, or doing charity work, your experience will speak louder than grades in this day and age. Employers are looking for worldly and confident individuals who are experts in their field, and whatever you can do to show that will boost your career path much more than pure academics.
Myth 2: It’s always an upward climb.
We’ve been brought up to believe in the upward climb of our careers. We move from job to job, expecting promotions, better opportunities, and pay. As good as that sounds, the linear upward climb isn’t exactly how life works. And again, like paper qualifications, upward climb may not be everyone too. There will be times when life throws you a curve-ball and you end up losing your job or are made to take paycuts for better opportunities. Or you may be offered lateral movement at work, which brings you diverse experience at the same job grade or pay.
Once we let go of the idea that the only way is up, it’s easy to stop beating ourselves up or feeling unsatisfied. Chances are, we’ll be able to see the opportunities in the setbacks, and make the most of it to really ace that next step.
Myth 3: It’s all about you.
It’s easy to come into a job thinking that it is a single step in your climb up the career ladder of your life. But the truth is, its much, much more than that. You are, at the end of the day, a single person contributing to the goals of a company, and while you may be looking ahead to the next step of your career path, you are still part of a larger organisation, which is also part of an industry. Yea, it’s an entire
jungle ecosystem out there.
This may seem like a very obvious point, but inculcating this into your DNA impacts everything in your worklife, for instance, your work relationships and reputation. The way you leave a company, for one, doesn’t just stay in that company, it follows you into your next job. Your reputation is also something that is built over your whole career, and these things spread within that industry, so be sure to act with utmost professionalism and integrity.
Another example is when an economic crisis hits — it impacts the industry, which impacts the organization, which in turn will impact you, one way or another. Whether it means that you have to work longer hours or lose your job completely depends on your organization and your performance. So if you’re being made to take a paycut while other companies in your industry are losing whole departments, then thank your lucky stars, and hope you have savings to dig into.
Myth 4: Work is always a top-down process.
Especially in Asian cultures, we’ve been taught to respect authority and to obey the bosses. However, not every company has that top-down culture, and there will be times when you’ll have to reach out or speak up to your boss in order to get ahead. Or at least to get heard.
Disagree with a direction that your company is taking? Seek your boss out to discuss your thoughts and suggest alternatives. Want to get new opportunities or learn new skills? Instead of waiting for opportunities to drop from the sky into your lap, ask your boss to see if the company can help. If you can prove to your boss that you have the company’s interests at heart (i.e. you learning a new skill can expand your team’s offering), then he/she may just say ‘yes’.
Myth 5: Your job will always be the same.
We all know the drill. We apply for a job, go for an interview, and if we make it through, we get the job. Sounds great, but when we assume that that’s the last step in the process, we’ll be in trouble.
As the world changes, with technology, culture, and politics in the mix, the goals and needs of your company are going to change alongside all of these factors. What your company will need from you, therefore, will change with these variables. Perhaps you’re a great website designer, but as your company grows, you may be expected to take on new tasks and responsibilities, maybe start designing apps as well and personally pitching your ideas to clients. If you stay inflexible and say that what is being asked of you isn’t part of your job, you risk becoming irrelevant in the ever-changing demands. The skills that may have gotten you that job in the first place may also become unnecessary.
So to avoid being left behind in the fast-moving world, keep up to date with industry news, pick up new skills, and stay flexible to new opportunities. Remember always that job security is a thing of the past, as these days, we the workers outlive our jobs, or heck, even our companies. Doing something different, changing your mindset and constantly upgrading yourself may require you to do things that are out of your comfort zone, but chances are you’ll be better for it.
(Pro tip: Use that SkillsFuture Credit!)