Career path – not so different from school years

By Byron Moore, posted January 30, 2017

Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, January 29, 2017.

Q: I am just getting started in my career. I want to make sure I’m doing the right things so that I can be taken seriously and maximize my opportunities. Got any advice for me?

A: Remember your freshman year in high school?

career pathYeah, that’s too painful to recollect, so let’s go straight to your freshman year of college. If you are new to your career, I assume your freshman year in college was just four or five years ago.

In a sense, you are in your freshman year of your career. Let’s call you a career freshman. Your career freshman year will last between five and ten years, so don’t get in a hurry.

The keys to a successful freshman year of college are pretty simple: take the right classes, establish good study habits, do good work, meet new friends, have a good time.

Maybe your career freshman year isn’t so different…

Right classes. Ideally, a college freshman will go to her first day of class knowing her desired field of study. She will then take classes that not only apply to that major, but that will actually prepare her for the even harder classes she will take as a sophomore. So she doesn’t choose the “easy A” teacher…she may actually choose the hardest one in hopes she will be better prepared for classes she will later take.

As a career freshman, the equivalent of choosing a major is knowing what career path you wish to be on. Do you know where you want to be in your career in five or ten years?

Good habits. Next, a college freshman needs to learn good study habits. This means so much more than simply going to class. It means keeping up with the class, studying and doing homework along the way and learning the material so that studying for the final is not a caffeine-aided all-nighter that starts with the question, “I wonder where my book for that class is?”

As a career freshman, the equivalent of good study habits is good work habits. Show up a little early, stay a little late, listen well, learn to think rather than just react and commit to being a non-stop learner.

Good work. More than a few college freshmen get into a degree program and realize, “Hmmm, maybe the F I just got on my first test is telling me I may not be cut out for a career in Nuclear Quantum Electronic Microbiologic Engineering…”

There is work out there you can be good at. And that can be good to you. You can make a genuine contribution to be company for which you work and to the end consumer you are serving.

At the same time, you ought to enjoy your vocation – maybe not every last year of it. But by and large, there is work out there you can find satisfying and enjoy doing.

As a career freshman, it’s worth the search to find that work. Experiment wisely. Try stuff. Don’t fear failure. Fear not trying.

Good life. Let’s admit that most college freshman want to enjoy life – and more than a few enjoy it too much…until grades come out and they have to go home.

But apart from the excesses of adolescence, even the “good kids” want to have a good time. A successful college freshman will build new friendships (some of which will last a lifetime) and live life outside of the academy.

So it should be as a career freshman. Don’t let your desire to “succeed” in your career so dominate your life that it robs you of your life. Find the work-life balance that allows you to enjoy the fullness of your work, but also allows you a full life outside of work.

Relax. You don’t have to know it all. In fact, as a career freshman, if you try to act like you know it all, you won’t be taken seriously.

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