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Time Travel Wisdom: Young Professionals' Advice to Their Past Selves

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To provide young professionals with valuable career advice, we asked fifteen seasoned experts, including CEOs and HR Directors, to share the wisdom they would impart to their younger selves. From learning to embrace networking despite discomfort, to the importance of prioritizing continuous learning and adaptability, their insights offer a roadmap to career success.

  • Embrace Networking Despite Discomfort

  • Start Your Business, Learn on the Go

  • Focus on Effort, Not Just Results

  • Identify Impact and Master Necessary Skills

  • Welcome Change and Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

  • Value Flexibility in Career Planning

  • Pursue Interests, Not Just Career Aspirations

  • Surround Yourself with Successful People

  • Gain Industry Experience Before Entrepreneurship

  • Learn from Failure, Don’t Fear It

  • Foster an Entrepreneurial Mindset

  • Be Open to Change and New Opportunities

  • Map Out Short and Long-Term Goals

  • Follow Your Gut and Take Risks

  • Prioritize Continuous Learning and Adaptability

Embrace Networking Despite Discomfort

I am the first to admit that networking isn't something I look forward to.

As a naturally introverted individual, networking has proven itself to be a necessary evil that pays significant dividends. When I look back at my historic attempts at networking, I realize these were pivotal moments in my career when I opened doors that would otherwise be closed. Future employers, clients, channel partners, and other useful career allies were all discovered at networking events, making these incredibly valuable experiences.

Consequently, I would tell my younger self to simply get out there, meet more people, impress key stakeholders, and forge relationships whenever possible. Your future self will surely appreciate the effort.

Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership

Start Your Business, Learn on the Go

Just start! I used to agonize over what type of business to start, what to name it, what services to offer, how much to charge, what my branding should look like, how to organize tax receipts, and what website builder to use—all the questions except for who my first client would be. Instead, I should have put that energy into generating revenue.

You don't have to have every detail figured out to get started. Learn as you go—just start somewhere.

Alli Hill, Founder and Director, Fleurish Freelance

Focus on Effort, Not Just Results

Reflecting on my journey, the advice I'd give my younger self would be to focus on what's within your control: your efforts, your persistence, and your willingness to learn.

Often, we can get hung up on results, which are largely influenced by factors beyond our control. I've found that channeling my energy into consistent action, coupled with an openness to growth and learning, leads to more rewarding outcomes in the long run.

As a life coach, this mindset shift has been key in helping my clients navigate their career paths more effectively, developing their resilience and adaptability. In the end, it's not the destination that defines us, but the journey we undertake and how we grow along the way.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

Identify Impact and Master Necessary Skills

Reflecting on my own journey, if I could offer my younger self a piece of advice on career planning and aspirations, it would be this: Identify the impact you want to have in the world and determine the key transferable and technical skills you will need to drive that change.

Then, passionately commit to mastering these skills until you are so proficient that your expertise becomes impossible to ignore. This approach ensures that your career isn't just a means to an end, but a platform for meaningful influence and transformation.

Larissa Brown, Career Counsellor for Teenagers, Careers That Matter

Welcome Change and Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

As a CEO with the benefit of hindsight, the one piece of advice I would give my younger self regarding career planning and aspirations is to be open to change and embrace opportunities outside your comfort zone. Early in my career, I was laser-focused on a specific path and had a clear vision of what success looked like. While having goals is essential, I now realize that being too rigid can limit growth and prevent us from exploring new and exciting possibilities.

I would tell my younger self to welcome unexpected opportunities and challenges, even if they seem outside of the original plan. Embracing change and taking calculated risks can lead to tremendous personal and professional growth. Sometimes, the most transformative experiences and opportunities come from stepping outside of our comfort zones and embracing the unknown.

It's essential to stay curious and continuously seek new experiences, skills, and knowledge.

Value Flexibility in Career Planning

As the CEO and President of Redfish Technology, a recruiting firm specializing in engineering, sales, and marketing roles within the tech sector, I've always been a planner, especially for my career. I had a strict timeline I wanted to follow, and routinely got frustrated when deadlines weren't met. If you'd told me then that I'd eventually move into an entirely new industry, I wouldn't have believed you!

Over the years, I discovered the value of flexibility. Life happens in a way that's hard to predict, and sometimes you don't know what you're suited for until you try it.

If I could go back, I'd tell my younger self to relax and stay open-minded to all possibilities. Planning is great, but staying flexible ensures you're able to stay on top of a changing work landscape and meet yourself where you are.

Rob Reeves, CEO and President, Redfish Technology

Pursue Interests, Not Just Career Aspirations

So often, when we think we know what we want to do as a career, we get tunnel vision. We dismiss interesting opportunities that do not align with our purposed career aspiration and go all in on that one thing.

But if an opportunity is interesting to you, follow it. I knew I wanted to be a physician, but something about teaching interested me, so I taught 4th graders for a year. The experience was transformative. The interaction between students, parents, and administration was similar to the dynamics of patient, family, and hospital administration. Teaching provided valuable communication and interpersonal skills, which enhanced my skills as a physician. You never know how an experience will help you later on, so follow your interests. The experience will enhance your skills, communication and, if nothing else, it will give you a good story to tell!

Elisha Peterson MD MED FAAP FASA, Anesthesiologist and Pain Medicine Physician, Elisha Peterson MD PLLC

Surround Yourself with Successful People

The piece of advice I would give to my younger self regarding career planning and aspirations would be to get around those who are doing the things I want to do sooner. It was only when I was in my late 20s that I got around the people living the life that I wanted to live. Had I known this when I was in my teens, I would have been able to be years ahead of where I am now.

Further, I would not have gone to university and I would have been further along in business instead. I truly believe it needs to be a requirement before one pursues further education or a career to get around people already excelling in that endeavor, to make sure it's a good fit. A way to do this would be to shadow others, volunteer, or be mentored.

Gain Industry Experience Before Entrepreneurship

I took a leap of faith and started my own business, despite having no prior experience in the industry, based solely on my enthusiasm and dreams. However, it took me quite a few bumps in the road that I could've avoided with some knowledge and know-how.

Therefore, I would strongly advise myself to get some experience under my belt by working for another company in the industry first, and only then start my own gig, in order to save my time, nerves, and avoid having to reinvent the wheel.

Learn from Failure, Don’t Fear It

I'd tell my younger self, "Embrace failure!" The world outside academia is different; it's not about getting straight A's. You're going to fail, and that's perfectly okay. In fact, I'd say, "Go fail as fast as you can." It sounds counterintuitive, but failure teaches you so much more than success ever could.

I remember my first major hiccup in sales. I almost blew a $90k deal in one of my first sales calls (my boss luckily helped me get through it). But that “F” moment taught me invaluable lessons about negotiation, relationship-building, and humility.

So, don't fear failure; it's a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block. Try, stumble, learn, and then rise again stronger. It's through these experiences that you'll truly grow and excel in your career. And remember, you've got time on your side. Make mistakes, learn from them, and trust the process.

John White, MBA, Sales Manager, Golf Instructor, John Carlton White

Foster an Entrepreneurial Mindset

One piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to stop with the employee mindset. I spent too many years with this mindset, which set my career back. I would tell them to foster an entrepreneurial mindset. Such a mindset would enable me to work on the skills I needed to become an entrepreneur. Such a mindset is critical if you ever want to quit corporate slavery and work for yourself.

Perry Zheng, Founder and CEO, Pallas

Be Open to Change and New Opportunities

One piece of advice is to be open to change. It is important to invite new ideas and opportunities. This enables you to shape yourself into a better candidate.

You can explore different fields and industries, which can encourage you to find new goals. The same suggestion would have been beneficial to my younger self. An incredible opportunity to work as an Imports Executive in a reputable company was presented. However, it was situated in Europe and was related to the supply chain management field, in which there was no experience.

All internships were in the marketing field, which caused hesitation to consider the job. There was also a fear of moving abroad alone. If there had been openness to working in a new field and environment, such an opportunity would not have been passed on.

Map Out Short and Long-Term Goals

My main advice would be to not feel like you have to rush into situations or career paths that don't directly align with your long-term goals.

More importantly, ensure that you actually map out what your goals are over the short and the long term. This will help with making those decisions, as you'll always have your primary goals in mind.

Follow Your Gut and Take Risks

If I could give my younger self one piece of advice regarding career planning and aspirations, it would be to follow my gut. I was always so worried about what people thought of me that I would often do things that didn't feel right in order to please others. In the end, though, you can't make everyone happy—and if you try, you'll end up making yourself miserable.

I'm not saying that we should all live our lives recklessly or ignore the advice of others. But sometimes we need to listen to our own instincts and take risks that might seem scary at first but are worth it in the end.

Rengie Wisper, Marketing Manager, SupplyGem

Prioritize Continuous Learning and Adaptability

One piece of advice I would give my younger self regarding career planning and aspirations is to prioritize continuous learning and practice adaptability in the continuously changing world that we face today. In today's rapidly evolving world, the skills and knowledge that are valuable in the job market can change quickly.

By focusing on building a firm foundation of skills, staying curious, and being open to learning new things, you'll be better equipped to navigate changes and seize opportunities as they arise. Don't just aim for a specific job title or role, but rather, strive to develop a versatile skill set that can be applied across different industries and contexts.

Enroll in the latest skill-development courses to greatly enhance every aspect of your growth, which will, in turn, open up an array of opportunities for you. Embracing a growth mindset and being willing to step out of your comfort zone will set you up for long-term success and fulfillment in your career journey.

Joe Li, Managing Director, CheckYa


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