A Letter To Myself on the First Day of My Career
Today is the first day in a long journey for you in a career you don’t comprehend yet. You will learn that you will be forced to weather some very difficult professional hardships, but the emotional, psychological and financial rewards are far beyond what you can imagine today. Here is some important advice to help you more easily navigate those formidable waters.
Learn quickly the tremendous opportunity you’ve been given. Don’t take three years to fully grasp it, like you did the first time around. Look up, look around, ask questions, talk to co-workers more, and earlier, than you did the first time. Prepare to absorb the professional knowledge and skills you will learn you need in order to truly exceed in this career. No other career you could have stumbled into can offer the stability, income level or personal gratification of this one without needing a bachelor’s degree to start.
Finish your bachelor’s degree. Yes, I know you were hired into this job as a Rentals Secretary based on your typing skills and shorthand skills, no degree required. You will learn later how important the bachelor’s degree really is, as a Land Administration Analyst, when you watch co-worker after co-worker get promoted ahead of you, even though you have more on-the-job experience. They have a 4-year degree. Bite the bullet now, do the night school to finish those last two years of your degree. Don’t wait for 35 years like you did the first time around. Doors you never saw before will open for you once you have it.
Take initiative early, and permanently. Self-discipline, organization and deep desire to do any job well have always been strong points for you, but you will need more. You must pursue a never-ending quest for self-education. You will learn that many analysts have workshop manuals, training notebooks and other job-related resources that you can carefully borrow by staying late and photocopying them in small chunks over several weeks. Carefully return the manual or notebook the exact way you found it. Then after you put the kids to bed at night, spend a few minutes studying what you brought home that day. Become a sponge.
Don’t be spooked by layoffs. This is 1978, so you will have almost six years of strong income growth and time to build your reputation before the ground shifts beneath your feet. Guard your reputation with your life! Don’t ever lie to an owner on the phone when tempted, don’t ever hood-wink your boss in a pinch, don’t let a task go undone just because you can. And, whatever you do, don’t quit a job over something petty just because you know you can have another job tomorrow! Your resume is the most important part of your reputation—don’t grind it into hamburger with back-to-back contract jobs like you’re about to be tempted to do. Pull back, choose a permanent position wisely, and stick with it for at least three years. Soon enough the bottom will fall out of the job market. Your reputation, work ethic and trail of accomplishments are what will keep you afloat as other analysts leave the field in droves, unable to find other jobs. You will weather that time in your career much better if you avoid the hopscotching from contract job to contract job early on.
Enjoy your job. You will grow to love this work. It will be challenging for you and very rewarding. In fact, someday you will teach workshops to train others how to do this work, to pass the baton to the younger generation. But watch yourself, that you guard against indulging in the office rumor mill—no matter how tempting. Don’t learn the hard way this second time around.
Navigate wisely, keep a firm grip on both paddles, and always keep your eyes fixed on the direction you want to go. Then put your shoulders into it and head straight for that success!