Career Advice to My Former, Rookie Self

I was lucky. My first corporate job was a great one. It was a few years of fun, fulfilling work with some of the most talented, supportive colleagues and bosses I’ve ever worked with.

Recently, six of us from the good old days packed our bags, left our families, booked plane tickets, drove hundreds of miles and gathered for a mini reunion on the shores of New Jersey. No small task for a collection of successful senior executives, balancing intense jobs and family demands.

CHIANG DAO, THAILAND, JANUARY 05, 2015: A Buddhist monk master iIn addition to the reminiscing, laughs, wine and beach walks were many thoughtful career conversations. The lessons we learned throughout our careers and shared with each other were powerful.

The list below (the NSFW items are on a different list) reflects the career advice we would give ourselves, each other, 20+ years ago.

Career advice to my former, rookie self:

  1. When accepting a new job, have many reasons for doing so. That fantastic new boss who hired you and you can’t wait to work for … could be resigning in a month.
  2. Never send an email when you’re upset.
  3. Image matters. People make judgments about your competence and credibility based on your appearance. Know what message your posture, clothing and make-up is sending.
  4. You can learn from bad bosses as well as great ones – just don’t work for the bad ones for too long.
  5. Negotiate your deal. Don’t hesitate to ask for what’s important to you. Do it before you accept an offer because once you start a job, it’s too late.
  6. Don’t be wedded to your academic methodology. It probably won’t work like the textbook says it should once you’re out in the real world where budgets, egos and insecurities reign.
  7. It’s easy to say no. Push yourself to “say yes” to as many new experiences and invitations that come your way.
  8. Working with inspiring, talented, supportive people trumps almost everything else. Prioritize and nurture the relationships with the people you’ve learned the most from, those you respect most.
  9. Boldly share your vulnerability, mistakes and missteps with your team. It’s the sign of a strong leader, not a weak one.
  10. If you’re lucky enough for someone to give you thoughtful, constructive feedback, listen, take notes, say “thank you” and sit with it for a few days.
  11. It’s ok to step outside of what’s comfortable. Take risks. If it feels uncomfortable, that’s good. It means you’re growing.

All these years later, the lessons still apply.

Andersen Worldwide reunion
Taking time to reconnect with former colleagues, bosses and friends in Spring Lake, NJ #Andersen94

Marta Steele is a proud Andersen Worldwide, Arthur Andersen and Accenture alumni. She’s currently a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with Marta on Twitter @MartaSteele.