If I were 22, I’d wish to write this cheat sheet to my former self. It is not all-inclusive and couldn’t possibly be because I’m just 24 years old. It is a humble start to achieve the holy grails of professional life that I’m currently working on too. Many a times we wish we’d known better or better yet – had acted wisely. This cheat sheet includes 7 reminders to the young professional I am striving to be and 7 advices for the 22 year olds or even for those who are younger: on Technology, Communication skills, Mentorship, Conviction, Failure, Gratitude and Hobbies.
In a world where unplugging from your phone/tablet/computer can be a challenge, it is important that you leverage these technologies instead of letting them harm your career.
Understand the world you live in: Information is at the palm of your hand and yet you would compulsively check your virtual wall for updates that are probably going to take you nowhere. (Been there, done that.) Try to understand the world you live in. This is not to say that you shouldn’t socialize. There’s a fine line between socializing for the betterment of yourself and instant gratification or binge reading. Learn how the economies of the world work, it will prepare you for your future.
According to an Inter-American Development Bank technical note published in November of 2012, a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration is associated with a 3.19 percent increase in GDP and a 2.61 percent increase in productivity. – Huffington Post
Networking: Over the internet, there are numerous avenues to professional networks where you can connect with people in your field. This is not to say that it in any way undermines the importance of a one-to-one conversation, it just takes you closer to it. Use social media for networking. I use Twitter and LinkedIn for it. I also use Google+ to share my articles. There are different kinds of people on each social network. You’ve got to find which one suits your field of work. Know how people in your line of work are using technology.
Learning: There are places you can learn new things and that too for free. Here are a few links to get you started if you haven’t already:
- Open Culture
- Khan Academy
- A collection of resources on Chemical Engineering/Chemistry & Green Chemistry
We are humans. We speak, we read and we write. We can do so many other things by doing these things. Why not get better at doing it? Spend some time learning the language you need for your profession. Learn to express yourself well. It takes time and that’s okay. Always remember that communication skills are indispensable – not just in your professional life but in all other areas of life you can think of. Read more, speak more and write more. You don’t have to want to become a writer to make these your forte.
I could barely put together a complete sentence in English when I was in school. I wish I was good at it then but I’m trying my best to do that now. It’s never too late to start. I started writingmy blog a year back and it has turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done so far. I didn’t know I could write at lengths. I didn’t know people would like what I write but they did. Since then I’ve learnt new ways of networking, I’ve learnt to handle feedbacks – negative and positive, I’ve learnt to ask questions and answer them. I learn new things so I can write about it. It also is one of the things I show to employers as a proof of my abilities: it is in a way my CV.
Many young people may find it hard to decide what they want to do with their lives. Many learn to flow with the tide instead of swimming through it and find a way for themselves. The one’s on the tide need more guidance than the swimmers. There’s nothing wrong with seeking guidance but there are a certain ways to do it that are more useful than others.
While you seek guidance, remember to not forget what ‘you’ really feel or think about things. You don’t have to believe each and everything that people say to you or that you hear. Although our values change with time, it is important to be aware of them.
“It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Take your time to decide and seek help if you can’t. There are many professionals out there who will be happy to share their expertise with you when you want to know what you want to do with your life. If you decide onto something, do it. Spare yourself from the misery of never finding out what ‘would be’ if you had tried enough.
While this is understandable, sticking to a single frame of reference or a single plan can stagnate our way of thinking. I personally do not believe in having a vision that doesn’t allow me to evolve.
“The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.” – The surprising psychology of how sticking to plans actually hinders success and happiness (via explore-blog)
“You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh… how much more enjoyable it is to win. It’s inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.” – Peter Mayle
You will fail at times because you are yet to learn something. As James Joyce said, “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” Analyze your failure, learn from it, accept it with grace and move on. A friend once said to me that ‘In German, ‘grün’ is also used to mean ‘inexperienced’.’ He said that to me when I said I wasn’t good enough. He then shifted my perspective to thinking that I just need more experience to do what I have to do. It felt good to not berate myself.
This reminds me of the conversation Morpheus had with Neo in the movie ‘Matrix’. It goes like this:
Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
Neo: You could say that.
Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that’s not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.
At times you will feel that nothing is going your way, you may gasp for a sense of control. It is when you should pause and reflect. Remind yourself that even if things don’t happen the way you expect them to be, you can control how you react to situations. You can let yourself become stronger and wiser and make the most of what you have. When you feel like you can’t control things and things will be not yours like you’d want them to be, let your loss be your guide.
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~Dalai Lama
Anchor yourself with this idea and you will learn how to stay level-headed professionally.
The experiences you’ve had all your life have got you where you are right now. Some were nice, some were not. Rita Mae Brown once said, ‘Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.’ A lot of the bad experiences may leave you feeling hopeless and resentful but if you let them guide you to a better place, chances are you will reach there.
You are a combination of all these experiences. You are influenced by all the people you come in contact with. Be thankful. Express it whenever you can. Even the worst of the experiences and also the people who bring the worst out of you can be your teacher. Whenever you encounter such experiences and people, look at how they can teach you. You will then one day think of them and connect the dots to how you became wiser and stronger.
Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books. – The New York Times (What’s so scary about smart girls?)
Education gives you freedom. Don’t waste it away on negative experiences.
Some call this a part of the work-life balance. Bruce Kasanoff on the other hand explains how having a second job for our soul helps: in his LinkedIn article. To me it is also ‘diversity’. When you do different kind of things, you are allowing yourself to have a different perspective, you are letting yourself connect the dots which you couldn’t have if you hadn’t done those things.
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” – Henry Miller
I consider hobbies as a support system too. When nothing seems to work out, hobbies are always there for you to give yourself a much needed break. When Henry Miller said ‘Forget yourself’, I think he meant one should not dwell on sad things too much but rather focus on other riches of life.
You could also think of hobbies as an investment. When you are old and unable to do your usual work, some of these hobbies might someday come handy. Hobbies also boost your creativity and creativity strengthens your brain muscles in its own magical way.
I like taking pictures and I also like to put them in my blog posts. Having pictures in your articles engages the readers. So that’s a kind of a professional trick you got to learn. That’s how hobbies and work can be integrated together. I even paint to express myself better.
I also want to learn new languages to have a strong connection with people whose English is a second language, just like it is for me. Research says that learning new things helps our brain structure to evolve and make new neurons. Bonus.
“Feedback can be good but it can homogenize what you’re trying to do. … Constant feedback isn’t adding any value for the person who is trying to find out for herself and himself who they are … Which is a really solitary and iterative process.” – Explore blog
“Don’t worry about finding a mentor. Worry about what you want to learn”, says Ellen Chisa in her article ‘Have some Coffee’. She shares advice on how to seek professional guidance in the right way.
“The word failure is imperfect. Once we begin to transform it, it ceases to be that any longer.” – Sarah Lewis.
“You aren’t failing; you have simply reached a decision point, or more specifically a prioritization moment.” – Simone Sneed
“Read, read, read, read, read. Read everything. You can’t work unless you know the world, and outside of living in the world the best way to learn about the world is to read about it,” said Goodman. –Via Explore blog
Be aware of your inner self and your outer world:
A part of gratitude is being kind to yourself and to everybody else. A part of gratitude is also passing along such ‘IfIwere22s’. Here’s one by Baz Luhrmann:
No, I never wanted to be a nurse or an astronomer but I’ve always been fascinated by biology, medicine and astronomy. The picture in the middle is the 22 year old me. :)
I hope you find this article useful. I look forward to know your thoughts on it.
I wrote this for LinkedIn’s new series called “If I Were 22” to help guide the graduating class of 2014 — and all young professionals.
You can find the original article here.