Do what you love, be ready to pivot and manifest your success.
BY Amy George – 21 May 2018
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
In the middle of a very busy May, a staggering fact popped into my head. I graduated from college half my lifetime ago. To be clear, that was before Y2K, social media, work-life balance, “Sex and the City,” and hot yoga were even things. It’s hard to fathom.
Rather than feel old or ask the rhetorical question — how did this happen? — I decided to take comfort in having made it this far — from journalist to corporate communications professional and small business owner and entrepreneur. I also thought I’d share with today’s college graduates the five most important lessons learned since 1996.
1. Do what you love.
This is everything. It doesn’t mean that work is always a joy and a pleasure; it’s called work, not vacation. But you have to love — or like a whole lot — what you do or you’re going to feel empty inside. You might not always get to do the exact job that you always sought out to do. I thought I’d be a journalist forever, but that industry had plans of its own. But every job I’ve had has involved the one thing I most love to do and that I’m good at — writing. Once you don’t love — or like a whole lot — your job, it’s time to find a new one or try or start something new, which brings me to…
2. You can always reinvent yourself. Like Madonna. Or Lady Gaga.
We all are a work in progress, and our world is always changing. Just because you signed on as a very young adult to be a (fill in the blank), that doesn’t mean that profession is always going to fulfill you or even be around or relevant or what you are meant to do. Work hard and be willing to learn new skills and say “yes” to new adventures. Be flexible. Be open to new opportunities you might never have considered.
And remember it’s never too late. A few years ago, I was at an exhibit of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s pin collection and was surprised to learn that she didn’t being her diplomatic career until her children were teenagers. Talk about inspiration.
3. Don’t put off a big dream.
Even though you can always reinvent yourself, don’t pass up opportunities to do things that might be harder to do later. If you are even remotely considering graduate school or law school or medical school, do it now. If you put off an advanced degree, you might settle too long in a job or into a relationship and it will be harder to go back.
Same goes for dreams of starting your own business or moving to a new city or part of the country you’ve always wanted to call home. In my mid-20s, when I was living in Kentucky and dating my now husband I interviewed for a job in New York City. I took the job even though Jefferson had no intention of moving there. It was a risk I was willing to take, because in college I’d visited New York on Spring Break and promised myself I’d live there someday.
4. If you say it, it’s real.
See how these tips are connected? I told myself and everyone I knew I’d live in New York and I did. I said I’d be a journalist and I was. An internship in Paris. Check. A business to call my own. It’s happening right now. This client, that client. Done and done. You make your own luck. Yes, it takes hard work. And having a theme song or two won’t hurt.
I recently was reminded of how important it is ask the universe for what I need when I interviewed Jen Sincero, best-selling author of You Are a Badass At Making Money. Bottom line: You manifest the thoughts inside your own head, so make them good ones.
5. Know that nobody will ever care as much about your career as you.
Before you take a job, never accept the first offer even if you hate negotiating, and most of us loathe the process. You lose negotiating power once you are on board.
Once on the job, manage up, but don’t be a jerk about it. Find ways that don’t involve stepping on your colleague to highlight your accomplishments — say at your annual review.
Keep your resume up to date. And your LinkedIn. Go to networking events or join networking groups, even if you hate it, and chances are you will hate it. But it will get better, I promise. You might not think you are looking for a new job, but you also might not know about the perfect, made-for-you opportunity if you don’t put yourself out there.
Bonus tips: Start saving for retirement now, don’t brag about being busy (so boring), exercise in the morning or it might not happen. Stretch, hustle, buy fresh flowers, write thank you notes.
And, in the words of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”