It’s that time of year again; time to reflect on all the bounties of 2011. Time to dig deep and think about what we are thankful for despite an imperfect economy, Kim Kardashian’s shocking divorce, and all-around challenging times.
Whether you’re just starting out at your first job, settling into mid-management or a seasoned professional, there are (hopefully) a number of career lessons you’ve learned along the way that have helped you in some significant way — lessons that might have even changed the entire course of your career.
In order to create a little healthy, communal learning, we asked job seekers to share the career lessons they are most thankful for. Here’s what we learned.
1. Chase your passion and the money will come
Every time you hear, “more money, more problems,” you probably think, “Yeah. I’d love to have that problem.” But think for a second about some of the most influential people of our time; Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey. Although their names are associated with wealth, they’re also noted for intense passion for their jobs.
Lynda Zugec, managing director for The Workforce Consultants based out of Manhattan, N.Y. says, “When you have passion for what you do, you look forward to getting up in the morning, developing ideas, and creating momentum – all of which are necessary for success.”
2. Teach people how to treat you
So many workers complain daily about how they are treated poorly at work by bosses, management or co-workers, always feeling powerless and helpless, but we forget that people are creatures of habit. They will behave how you allow them to behave. With a little tough love and tact, you might be able to set an expectation for the kind of treatment you will and will not accept from others at work.
Mari Anne Snow, CEO of SophiaThink Consulting in Boston, Mass. learned this life-changing career lesson from her administrative assistant. “I was having a terrible time working under a very challenging boss…She [administrative assistant] came into my office, closed the door, looked me right in the eye and said, ‘You have to teach people how to treat you.” After that, I understood I had to take control over my part of the interaction, that my power came from my ability to create clear boundaries with the people around me and then stick to them.
3. Don’t be afraid to take initiative
While you cannot go around doing whatever you like at work, making decisions that you do not have the authority to make, those who are successful in their careers and move up the ladder in organizations tend to take a little initiative whenever possible or appropriate.
Regina Barr, founder and CEO of Red Ladder, Inc., a consulting and executive coaching firm based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. shares, “I was in the habit of asking for permission to attend conferences or training events that I thought important to my professional development, and I was getting turned down by my boss. Then there was a conference that I wanted to attend that happened to be located in Bermuda.”
I was complaining about it to my co-worker, who then told me to just book the trip and not ask permission.
“So I didn’t ask. Instead I walked in with a business case and a plan for attending the event. It included when I was going to be out, how my work would be covered and the benefit my participation in the event would have on the department. My boss gave me the go-ahead without even asking the cost,” Barr says.
Many times management just wants to see that you are thinking and taking charge. Don’t be afraid to step outside the lines of your job description so long as you can prove value to the business in a concrete way.
4. Don’t hold on to a job or career you hate
“If you hate your job, quit,” says Sara Schoonover, vice president of TicketKick.com.
Holding on to a job you hate benefits no one. Whether it’s the actual job you hate or just the company that is not the right fit, staying hurts both you and the employer.
“Having negative energy over a bad job just means you’re literally blocking other better things in your life,” Schoonover says. “When you leave, it also “gives the company an opportunity to find the right person for the job who will love it, and produce amazing work.”
Everyone needs to make a living, so do not just up and quit every time you dislike something at work, and don’t forget you have bills and responsibilities. But if you are truly unhappy and unfulfilled, don’t be afraid to search for a better fit. It’s out there.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career expert and co-author of “Six Steps to Job Search Success” and “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” says, “Careers are not one-size-fits-all. I’ve coached executives who take massive risks (and sometimes massive pay cuts) to change careers and are happier for it. Personally, I left a ‘sure thing’ career in management consulting to be an actor/recruiter/entrepreneur. I’m still juggling all three, and it’s not as neat and tidy as my first career choice, but it’s a whole lot more fun [and still lucrative].
5. Play nice
The word nice sometimes makes people feel weak or unassertive. But nice can get you a long way in your career. People don’t care how smart you are if you are impossible to work with. Getting along while inspiring and motivating others helps everyone work more efficiently towards common business goals. You can still be decisive and productive while treating people with respect and kindness.
Heather Sheets, co-founder of New World Flood, a non-profit organization that travels to schools throughout the country to spread the message of positivity and community service, says, “My parents were both teachers and taught me to always treat everyone the same. Your boss signs your paycheck, but the janitor can let you in when you forget your keys.”
More career lessons folks are thankful for
We reached out to job seekers on Twitter and Facebook to see what helpful advice they’re glad they received:
- “Always act logically, never let the emotions take control, but always act human.” – Paul Azzopadri
- “You must go a little outside of your comfort zone in order to grow.” – Julian McBride
- “Be versatile; gain a variety of skills that make you indispensible and enable you to ‘switch gears’ at a moment’s notice.” – Isha Edwards
- “Working in a negative work environment is only temporary. Hold on, there is a better way down the road.” – Marcus Carpenter
- “No one is immune to a layoff.” – Chrsitine Economos
- “Even if the deck is stacked against you, what would really change? You still need to work, so ignore it. Persistence and determination will win in the end.” – Johnnie Brock
- “Go above and beyond. It will pay off.” – Gina Basham
- “Take any and every opportunity to improve or learn new skills.” – Cheryl Brown
- “Sometimes dreams don’t pay the bills, but I keep my dreams in my thoughts to help me focus on what my goals are with an income.” – Karen Lueken
What career lessons are you thankful for?