Towards the end of the year, our minds often drift towards setting New Year goals and how we plan to achieve them. If you are like me, the latter always seems to be a myth. The New Year often comes with a sense of a fresh start- a new beginning and a new you. It’s like there is a tingling global sensation that makes us feel powerful and motivated to conquer whatever it is we have listed down. Whilst there is no harm in this, I believe it is even better to reflect on what you learned during the previous year so that it can shed some light on what to work on in the coming year. Here are a few career lessons of 2015 that I’d like to share:
- Have a problem-solving mindset
When you start your first job this is the time you will make the most mistakes. Successful completion of your studies does not automatically prepare you for the school of life and work. Mistakes will be made. It is also highly likely that you will spend your time fretting rather than figuring out how you will solve the ‘mess’ you or someone else created. Instead of having numerous panic attacks, you would be better served by programming yourself with a problem-solving mindset. A problem-solving mindset doesn’t come naturally however this is something you can work on in the early stages of your career. Worrying does not help. The time you spend worrying could be more beneficially used to come up with ways where the situation can be ‘managed’ or ‘fixed’.
- There is no situation that can’t be ‘managed’ or ‘fixed’
Dear recent graduate, please know that when you make a mistake and everything seems to be going downhill: your life is not over and it is not the end of the world. Feel whatever you need to feel at that moment but don’t dwell on those emotions. This is why having a problem-solving mindset is important because only then you will be able to focus on what to do next instead of hiding under your desk (which I once did and it didn’t help). You have to be Olivia Pope in situations like this and have that “I’ll handle it” attitude. Maybe it’s a lot to ask at this stage as Miss Pope has tons of experience which helped her to get where she is, nevertheless, this is where you start building this mentality until it is deeply embedded in your character.
- It’s okay to say no
As humans, most of the times we tend to want to please everyone, family, friends or colleagues. We will therefore go out of our way to make something happen for another person at the cost of our own strength or peace of mind. Let’s say you’ve started your first job and you are doing more than what’s required of you- perhaps jobs you didn’t sign up for. That’s okay. It’s more than okay to do more than what your job description requires especially at the early stages of your career. What’s harmful is doing people favors when you already have a lot on your plate. You can politely say no by justifying why you can’t and offering them a solution as to how they can deal with it. I believe this shows a willingness to help rather than dismissing the request entirely. You don’t want to be in a position where you are overwhelmed by your work and someone else’s. As the saying goes, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Maintain a consistent work ethic
It is very important how you carry yourself in the workplace. Your work, professionalism and attitude speak louder than anything. Recently, I listened to Myleik Teele’s podcast How You May Be Sabotaging Your Professional Success where she talked about ten things that can sabotage this. One of them was being “a little late”. Even though I always arrive at work on time, I am guilty of arriving five minutes or even ten minutes late for meetings and the likes. I’d never thought much of it until I listened to that podcast. Miss Teele pointed out that when people arrive late, it doesn’t only show disrespect for another person’s time but it shows how unprepared and disorganized that person is. Being late will always reflect negatively on you and affect how people perceive your work ethic. Most of the time we think we have good enough reasons for lateness but really we don’t. Since you know how awful Dar es Salaam traffic is, why don’t you give yourself leeway for anything unprecedented? It doesn’t matter if you are five minutes or twenty minutes late, late is late. People notice everything no matter how ‘tiny’ or ‘little’ it might seem. Just make sure what they notice builds your career rather than sabotages it.
Oscar Wilde said “Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes”. What have your 2015 ‘experiences’ been and what have you learned from them? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.