The Best Career Advice I Never Received

Posted by Colleen Coyne

Jun 8, 2011 7:20:00 AM

People make their way into the working world in myriad ways. Some of us are forced into it early due to life circumstances, some of us skip the college/university thing and head to work straight from high school, many follow the more conventional path of High School followed by a 4 Year College and then on to work.

Regardless of how you get here, there is one thing we all have in common, for the first few years we are all pretty clueless. No class at any level can take the place of real world experience.

As I look back on what I thought I knew and the career advice I thought would carry over from "real life" to "work life", I realize some important details were missed..

Here are just a few examples of some "mis" (if not, "missed") advice I recall.

Goal scorers get all the glory

From an early age I was taught to be a team player. The team always comes first. There is no "I" in T-E-A-M. An assist is just as good as a goal. The missing detail in this seemingly sage piece of advice can be summed up in a single word, notsomuch. Sounds pretty cynical, right?  It's not meant to be cynical, just real. If you are looking to advance in the working world you have to be prepared to separate yourself, to call attention to yourself and to willfully take credit for successes in which you were involved. After all, when that annual review comes along, it's not the team's performance you'll be measured on, it's your own.  So, although it may be uncomfortable for some, it is a prudent career move to get used to the idea of standing out and taking credit when credit is due.

Networks aren't just for building

Business today is competitive and your personal network is more important than ever. Hard work and experience will help, but it's not necessarily going to get you where you want to go on its own.  If you have specific career goals in mind, you need to be prepared to leverage your network to gain an edge when you can. In extreme cases that might mean actually landing a job or an internship to get your foot in the door. In more common cases it might simply be making a new connection or getting an interview.  I think most people today are willing to help when they can, but you need to ask. Networking sites like LinkedIn and more recently BranchOut, allow you to see past your first level connections to your expanded network. That can be pretty powerful. Taking the time to create your profiles and understand the tremendous value these tools have to offer could prove to be a wise move. Online or off-line, your network may hold the keys to your castle. Don't just build your network, use it.

Your skills aren't skills, they are solutions

HubSpot's Marketer in Residence, David Meerman Scott is well-known for telling companies, "Nobody cares about your products or services. What they care about is solving their business problems." This is a great thing to keep in mind if you are currently on the job hunt.  Companies you find that are hiring aren't hiring for the fun of it, they need to...for some reason.  They are looking to address a business need. The job description will help, but considering the business need and how your skill-set can quickly and effectively help address that need will get you a lot further (a lot faster) than a standard cover letter and resume. Don't think of yourself as an individual, think of yourself as a small business that offers very specific solutions to important business problems.

[Guest post by my colleague Colleen Coyne at Hubspot]

Topics: career advice

Career Advice I Wish I Knew Earlier 

Hello.  I started this blog to distribute some of the best career advice I have been given over the many jobs I've had.  I've been fortunate to work for and with some great bosses like Brian Halligan, Francis DeSouzaNancy Kamei, and Rick Roberge, and some unique companies, like The Boston Consulting Group, that invest heavily in making each employee a success even after leaving the firm.

The advice and training I received here stands in contrast to my experiences with some not-so-great bosses and companies I've also worked for.  I'm continualy amazed at how valuable good advice has been in my career so I hope to pass on the good advice, and insights from mistakes I've made, via this blog. 

Thanks in advance for your comments, particularly when you can improve upon the ideas posted.

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