It’s been almost 3 years since I graduated as a marketing major. Not counting my internships and the miscellaneous job hopping, I’ve been working for almost 2 years now. To keep myself sane, this is also the period I take time out to reflect on some valuable lessons I’ve learnt. Here’re some takeaways from my first 2 years of work:
Lesson 1: Job titles are meant to impress
When I was younger, my parents would take me for 8 hour tuition classes on weekends just so I could get killer results and get into a good school. All this intensive studying… I was told I’d get a great job if I got a recognised degree. And when I graduated, the job portals had so many awesome sounding jobs! Relationship managers, designers and what not. So I applied for them all.
But when I got into one of those jobs, I had a rude awakening. I wasn’t doing what I thought a person with that title would do. My job title was just that – a title.
High-paying jobs aren’t easy, and easy ones aren’t highly paid. These fanciful job titles are just there to help hiring managers attract more candidates, and for us employees to bedazzle our resumes and maybe develop some shallow sense of job satisfaction.
For example, that 19-year-old “Marketing Director” is probably not a child prodigy. She’s just the co-founder of a small startup that probably doesn’t know what it’s doing.
And just because a 25 year-old is “Assistant Vice-President” of a bank, may not mean she’s ready to become the CFO of a company. They’re not the same thing.
Lesson 2: It’s never too late to start anew
I used to be so worried about my future. Because three-quarters of the way through my degree, I realized marketing is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. It just wasn’t for me!
So I started asking around if transfers between courses were possible and when I found out I couldn’t, I panicked, thinking I was caught in a dead end.
The truth is what we study might not necessarily be what we end up doing the rest of our lives. In fact, many of us end up in careers that have nothing to do with what we studied in University and Polytechnic.
The career you choose is not restricted to your choice of major. It’s never too late to try something else. It just means you’ll have work harder. And maybe spend some time humbling yourself to learn the ropes.
Because the only thing that counts is your performance now, nobody cares about the rest. So don’t worry, as long as you’re willing to get down and dirty with hard work, you’re not going to be doomed to a black abyss of bad careers just because you choose a major that wasn’t right for you.
Lesson 3: It’s all about solving problems
I used to think that all the hot-shots in the world were powerful aliens who got their expertise from some unknown source of power. But after talking to people in startups, you begin to realise that everyone starts out the same. Albeit, we didn’t have the same life experiences, everyone’s just trying to make something amazing happen.
Your CEO, your superiors, your mentor? They’ve all started out just like you; Clueless. They didn’t undergo some secret special training to be good at what they did; They worked hard, read books, and constantly looked for solutions and knowledge to help them work better. They were constantly learning, reinventing, and finding new ways to solve problems.
Lesson 4: No one is indispensable, so spend time building yourself up.
When I first graduated, I was so happy ‘cause I thought I could finally just give up and be a sloth at learning. You know, just go to work, do my job, go home and just watch as money rolled in the bank? Gosh, I couldn’t be more wrong.
As it turns out, I’m not the only graduate. Pfft. In fact, there are so many talented individuals, it’s scary. These days, designers know how to code, writers know videography, even interns know how to develop programs! If you don’t (attempt to) upgrade your skillset, you can never catch up with this ever growing pool of talent.
Even if you slayed at your job, being specialised in one skill is not enough. You might be enough for the company now, but it doesn’t mean you’ll continue being enough down the road when someone else overtakes you.
No matter how good you are at your job, there’s always someone who’s younger, cheaper, and even better at your job than you are. So to stay relevant, constantly seek to upgrade your skills. They don’t have to be related to your present job, it can be anything that you’re even vaguely interested in.
Lesson 5: Connections matter.
Before I started working, my parents tried telling me to no avail that our social connections matter. I did not believe them until I realised many good positions were usually referred in by friends and not posted on job portals. Besides internships and your first job, most positions (the good ones at least) are usually filled through referrals or internal recruitment. Also, sales-based jobs rely on word-of-mouth and client referrals.
People enter and leave your life all the time. And that’s a good thing. Those colleagues you spent so much time building a relationship with, when they jump ship to another company, they might recommend you to their bosses. Those clients you’ve spent time entertaining, they may choose to be your clients for life, regardless of which company you eventually belong to. Connections and relationships matter, sometimes it’s the only way to get that dream job. So network, network, network.
What are some lessons you’ve learnt in your time spent working? Share them with us!