10 career tips you wish you knew when you were 20

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When first starting your career it can be daunting to compete in the job market for that ideal position. In truth, the journey won’t be easy, you may work at places you don’t enjoy, or you may find a great job you love doing that may not be fulfilling for long.

You’ll likely switch careers more than once or you may stay at the same job for 30 years, but there are a some key things to keep in mind as you progress. Below are a few tips from Bayt.com for navigating your way through the adventure that is your career.

1. Your degree will only take you so far.

Your degree and the learning it represents matters a lot, especially in differentiating you from other contenders for your first job. How you play and interact with other people, however, matters too.  Your interpersonal, teamwork, and leadership skills will serve you just as much in life as the lessons you learned in the classroom.  Character matters too; ethics, integrity, fairness and tolerance are all essential for professional success. 28.8% of employers in the Middle East look for ‘hunger, drive and ambition’ as the most important factors when making a hiring decision, even above technical skills, career track record and education, according to a 2012 Bayt.com ‘Hiring Practices in MENA’ poll.

2. If you’re not happy at work, try to start something of your own.

Even if you can’t get a proper paid internship while in college you can try to dabble with projects you can teach yourself.  Whether it’s a lemonade stand in front of your house on a sunny day, a cool corporate vending machine concept, or a franchise of new-age vans that sells ice-cream and drinks on the street, there is a lot to be learned from small success and failure.

3. It’s never too late to change careers.

For better or worse, gone are the days of lifelong security with an employer. In today’s workplace, people change careers often. Some people switch careers because of changes in their personal life, others change to pursue a dream they have always had, or one that they’ve suddenly developed, while still others do it due to a new opportunity that’s too tempting to refuse. In fact, 34% of professionals in the Arab world are considering an industry shift, according to a 2011 survey.

4. Learning is a lifelong endeavor.

If you thought you read your last book the week before graduation, think again.  Lifelong learning is essential to retaining your competitive edge and staying relevant in the workplace. Seek to read constantly not only to stay up-to-date, but also to acquire new skills, deepen your expertise, and broaden your interests. 30.5% of polled professionals claim that a willingness to learn is the most important quality required to succeed in one’s career. Moreover, 28.6% of polled respondents say that not updating existing skills is the biggest mistake regional professionals can make.

5. Seek to be known as an expert in your field.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Accept nothing less than a commitment to becoming an expert in your chosen role and give generously of your expertise so that you are recognized as such. Don’t lie low and plod casually through your daily tasks; lukewarm nonchalance is very transparent and is not a career strategy that readily translates to professional excellence. Passion pays in your career and the more passionate you are about what you do the more others will be too. You’ll not only help your own career and reputation, but you may inspire passion in others along the way.

6. Leave your insecurities at home.

Nothing is more frustrating to a manager than a team member who does not accept constructive feedback professionally. When you are given advice in the workplace from managers and peers you respect, take it for what it is and leave personal feelings out of it. Likewise, excessive stubbornness and pride are easy recipes for career disaster.

7. Maintain your relationships with other people.

A colleague or subordinate today may be a boss or client tomorrow. Keep as many relationships positive, sincere and constructive as you can; try never to burn bridges. You never know who you will need a lead, reference or helping hand from in the future. Be helpful just for the sake of being helpful too; good energy and a sincere, pleasant disposition will only benefit you in the long run.

8. Stand on the shoulders of giants.

Don’t be afraid to hire people better, smarter, cooler, older or younger than you. The best managers are not intimidated by top talent and know that it’s in everyone’s best interests, including their own, to hire the best people for their team. A majority (74.6%) of regional professionals say they don’t mind hiring a candidate who is more qualified, skilled and capable than them. Moreover, 59.6% of polled professionals wouldn’t mind hiring a candidate who is older and more experienced than them.

9. Good enough isn’t good enough.

If you want to stay competitive you need to aim for nothing less than the very best you can do. Seek perfection and even if you don’t achieve it (nobody really does) at least you can aim to excel. You may not think of yourself as the most ambitious person in the world but that doesn’t mean you need to aim or settle for mediocrity.

10. Your attitude is your altitude.

Remember it’s not just about the destination; it’s also about the quality of the journey; nothing will serve you more in optimizing both than a great attitude! Seek to stay positive and to spread good vibes and energy and always look at roadblocks as opportunities for growth and learning. If you think you can do it, you can.

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