Follow-Up: Career Advice


Got some good replies to yesterday’s post, and I want to thank everyone who stopped by and read it, or left comments either here or on Facebook. Like I said, the only way I knew all these things was because I screwed them all up, one way or another. Let’s see if I can summarize some of the conversation.

  • My brother Pat said that he got the above piece of advice from someone, and I thought it was good enough to make an image quote out of it and to give him credit for it. It’s great to be the guy behind the scenes and to make everyone else look good, but you shouldn’t be shy about letting people know that it was you who did the work. You have a responsibility to yourself to claim credit where credit is due. It’s not only all right to blow your own horn, in this day and age it’s practically a requirement. He also said to treat everyone well and with respect, because you never know who might be your boss someday. In my second job, my manager told me, “I’d better not say anything negative, because I might be calling you looking for a job someday.” He didn’t, but if he had, I’d have helped him.

  • My high school buddy Mark left a comment both here and on Facebook that it’s not just what you’re doing, but also who you’re doing it with. Also a good piece of advice, and so true. You might be working on great projects that challenge you and really make you happy, but if you’re working for a boss or with a co-worker who’s a real jerk, it can ruin the experience and really make your life miserable. As another person put it, life’s too short to work with *ssholes, and working for them is a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Gale Molinari paid me the great compliment of reblogging yesterday’s post, and added the comment that you should find something you love. I wholeheartedly agree. If you hate getting up in the morning because you hate not just your job but your career, your life will be a thousand times better if you ditch that career and find something you really enjoy. That was really the point behind #6, “Know what else you can do.” A lot of us ended up in the careers we did because we needed a job, and that career was hiring. That doesn’t mean we have to stick with it. This Wall Street Journal article reports that a person might go through seven different careers – not just job changes – in his or her lifetime. Granted, many of these likely happen early in one’s working life, which doesn’t surprise me.
    But how often have you heard someone in their late thirties say, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”? Perhaps their career was chosen by someone other than them. Maybe they chose their career because it was hot at the time. I used to meet lots of nurses who studied nursing because there was a “great shortage” of nurses, and after a few years they wanted nothing more to do with it. Ditto engineers, computer programmers, lawyers, and teachers. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “This sucks, I want to do something else.” Then, of course, you need to follow up on it.

  • Finally, Lauralynn said she had worked in the same job for 34 years, and hoped it would be the last job she had, because she wanted to work for herself when she left. This gets back to my statement that we’re rapidly approaching the “Free Agent Nation,” where employers become clients and employees became independent contractors. Obviously it won’t work for every job, but the jobs for which it won’t work are becoming rarer. And it’s not unusual at all for a person to have a 9-to-5 job, then go home and do side jobs, such as freelance writing, editing, computer programming, or web design. That additional experience comes in very handy if the day job suddenly goes away.

Thank you all for your comments. This was a good discussion, wasn’t it?

2 thoughts on “Follow-Up: Career Advice

  1. Lots of excellent points, John. I faced a career change when I was writing my dissertation on medieval studies and saw the twelve jobs available in North America. Yikes!

    I also left a job because the administration had what my husband calls “a high *sshole quotient,” and the attitude trickled down. I got tired of working for jerks, and it was worth the unsettling of family to be a happier person.

    I guess my most important advice would go along with your suggestion to blow your own horn. Know what you’re good at, keep getting better at it, and (hardest for me) believe how good you are at it.

    Thanks for the post. I’m going to follow much of your advice.


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