So you’ve finished high-school and/or university and it is the time to find your first real job, and consequently start your career. When talking about a “career” I strictly think about the job which you see yourself doing and wanting to do for a long period of time as a stable source of your income. Let’s say your first “serious” job, completely acknowledging the fact that there are people who worked serious jobs even before they started what is now their career.
The majority of people have a tendency to romanticize over what their careers will be, especially if it’s their first real job. They like to think about how it will look like, how they should be treated, how much should they be paid etc. Of course, everybody gets into a certain profession for their individual reasons: money, experience, personal growth, ability to advance, respect, social status etc. I’m not sure how I started working. It was all a bit spontaneous with me, but there sure are some things I wish I had known when I started my career, that I’m aware of now. Here is a list of the three most important things I’ve learned in time that I wish I’d known all those years back:
1. Experience is more important than money
This is especially important for young people (18-26 years old) who are starting their careers. In the beginning you know nothing (John Snow), and your first and foremost goal should be to learn. Don’t stress yourself over how other people get the big money (you will too, one day), work less than you, or how you think you are doing a meaningless job. If you work allows you to learn new stuff, acquire new skills and experiences, even if it doesn’t pay up that much - trust me, it’s still a good job. For example - I worked as something that can be described as an assistant editor at what is now the biggest online fashion portal in my country. For one year I worked a regular job, led a team of 20 contributors, translated and corrected their articles, picked photos for them, held meetings, picked subjects for their future posts etc. and was paid exactly 0 eur in all that time. That’s right, zero. I quit all bitter and disappointed, because they’ve constantly lied to us that the money is coming, and we’re going to start getting paid soon. Money did come, but we never got paid.
But then, less than a year later there was a new job opening for a junior contributor at a famous regional news portal. I’ve sent my CV, and crossed my fingers. Needless to say that the experience I got and the skills I’ve obtained doing my first job were the main reason I got hired, and payed. Not much, but money was money. I was on my way to building a career in the writing and digital world, nothing could stop me, and I have a big “thank you” for my slave-master employers at the first company I’ve worked for. Now, if someone offered me those same terms with the experience I have, I’d probably smile, maybe even slap him just because of the sheer disrespect they’re showing. But back then, it was okay, and it opened many doors for me later on. So remember this - in the beginning, experience over money!
2. Theory and practice are two worlds far apart from each other
Yeah, you’ve read somewhere how things work, or finished college and you are bringing all of your knowledge and enthusiasm to the table, ready to kick-ass at your new job. Trust me, you know nothing (John Snow). To paint a picture I’ll reconstruct a conversation between myself and the lawyer at whose office I was doing internship back when I was studying law.
The story begins one extremely hot day in July of 2010. with me bringing Mr Mladen a legal document I’ve assembled on his request. He looks over it, smiles, and tells me I have to do it all over again.
Me: But why? The document is solid.
Mladen: No, it is not.
- What do you mean, I’ve done it exactly as you asked me?
- No you didn’t. You did what you thought you should write down, but that’s not what I’ve asked you to do.
- But Mr Mladen, I passed that exam like 10 days ago, everything is still fresh to me, I know for sure that I am right and that this is in accordance with the law.
(here comes the important part)
- I’m sure, Milan, that it is all in accordance with the law, but if we give it like this to any judge, it’s not going to fly. Now I’m gonna teach you a difference between theory, and what actually works in practice.
And oh how he was right. So forget what you think you know; or better yet, don’t forget it, but adjust it to what the more seasoned sharks in the business tell you, especially if they are considered good at what they’re doing. Trust me, there is a reason why people are considered good at something, and that’s usually because they know something others don’t, or know how to do the same thing in a different way. Practice over theory.
3. You absolutely have to love what you do.
In my career that now spans over a modest period of 6 years, I’ve worked on 4 serious jobs, and a whole bunch of projects as a freelancer. If there is one thing I’ve learned that is the fact that there is no amount of money, no social status, work benefits or anything else in the world that can be even remotely compared to you doing something you actually like or love doing. For the last couple of months, I have a privilege of working in a positive and stimulating environment, on a project that is interesting to me, where I learn a lot of stuff from other people on a daily basis, surrounded by genuinely awesome people and believe me - I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even when I was working for a lot more money than now, there was the question of negative work atmosphere or a constant unhealthy pressure that was set upon everybody by senior management. Now I never complain about Mondays or anything else (except the fact that I have to wear pants, and I hate pants), but hey, you can’t have everything. And believe me, when I listen to the majority of my friends complaining about their jobs, I feel sorry for them. I feel so positive about everything that I do here, that I can honestly think about building and ending my career in this firm. Remember - nothing in the world is more important then to genuinely love what you do.
So, future job seekers - remember these simple three tips, and be aware of them when choosing your career, because it will have a great impact on you and your life in total, and you don’t want to make any big mistakes. Go with the flow, learn as much as possible, and enjoy what you do; success and recognition will come down the road.
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