5 Tips to Navigate Your Career Path from the Starting Line

Launching a career can feel overwhelming especially if this is your very first time. That’s why I’m sharing 5 tips I’ve followed for over 30+ years which still ring true today. I hope you find these inspiring and helpful.

#1 – “There is no such thing as no,” my parents. 

Your wishes, goals and dreams are your fire. They may be a slow burn or they may feel urgent. You’ll discover speed bumps and traffic jams in your way. Whether someone says no to hiring you or another type of “no” pops up, it is YOUR job to find a “yes.” 

Use your internal WAZE to find another route to get there. Be open and allow the information to come to you intuitively (the way WAZE relies on messages from everywhere to help guide you on the best route). 

When I interviewed for my first internship, I met with the HR person from MTV Networks (with hopes of accomplishing my dream of working for Nickelodeon / Nick at Nite). She told me “you’re not MTV Networks materials” and dismissed me right there. I landed an internship another way, at Comedy Central (sister network to Nickelodeon) and from there I met someone at the xerox machine and he began to mentor me. He also knew someone in Nickelodeon Animation and helped me get in for an interview. I got the internship, stayed in the company for 17 years and won Runner Up for Employee of the Year in my first few years. You must find an alternative route to get where you are going if you hit a traffic jam, an idiot cross guard or anything else that tries to stand in your way.

MOTTO: I am receiving the guidance I need to find my yes.

#2 – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou.

I’d say about 40% of my career, I was hired based on how I made someone feel. I am skilled, experienced and can figure things out too but really I cannot tell you how many times I was told that I was needed because of my ability to work with difficult people.

You do not have to be a pushover and you most certainly should have boundaries. But the way you communicate and your actions are something that will be a top reason why someone does (or does not) work with you.

I treated everyone (regardless of title) the exact same way. 

“Treat others the way you want to be treated,” A Golden Rule.

MOTTO: I am surrounded by unconditional love + return that energy to everyone I meet.

#3 – “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” Frank N Furter, Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I like this version of “fake it until you make it” much better because it feels less like you are scamming people and more like you are practicing to be your greatness.

Do not let “not knowing how” stop you. You are a smart and capable individual who absolutely can figure it out. Here are some ideas to build you confidence:

  1. Study and emulate someone you admire and want to be like. Choose an area or two that you’d like to improve and model their actions until it’s your own natural behavior. When I was in college heading to my first interviews I was scared. I chose to emulate Erika Kane (a character from the soap opera, All My Children) because she was confident, unshakable and really went for what she wanted. I entered many interviews and eventually meetings at my first job until my version was ready to let go of her.
  2. Volunteer! If you want to gain new skills and experience, you can often get that chance in volunteer situations. Organizations such as non-profits or networking groups are often low on budget and in desperate need of more hands to get their work done. Your willingness to take something on and figure it out as you go can really level up your abilities, confidence and future. You will also meet many mentors or future colleagues who will remember their experience working with you. You are planting the seeds for your success garden!
  3. Create your own curriculum. Search for books, podcasts,videos, bootcamps and workshops that offer intel and guidance but also feel like the right voice for you. I’m not a cook (my family can back me up on this) but I can make dinner if I find a recipe or watch a tutorial video. And with practice I occasionally make something that people actually like. Also replace the word “can’t” with “can” and continue until it’s not even a question if you can or can’t.

MOTTO: I am safe to show up as my authentic self and capable of achieving my goals.

#4 “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” – Albert Einstein

Stay relevant by always learning. You don’t need to be an expert, just be open to new ideas, new data or even new areas of interest that you have absolutely no interest in. For example, I could read Popular Mechanics Magazine. Other than being an amazing parallel parker, I have zero interest in cars. I don’t even care what kind of car I drive (although I do love heated seats). But an article in that magazine might spark a new idea for me or give me some intel that will help me later in something unrelated. 

So watch a documentary, read a book, take a class or just go to a hobby store one day and pick up something you’ve never tried. I remember having such an engaging conversation with my grandmother’s 90-something year old boyfriend about the Comcast purchase of NBC. He knew more than me and he never worked in TV. He just paid attention to things and enjoyed knowing stuff. And his questions and thoughts made me grow just from that one conversation. What a gift for both of us.

#5 – “You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great,” Zig Zigler.

Sometimes the enormity of what you want to do can take your breath away. But analysis paralysis is not your friend. Just take tiny turtle steps each day. 

Here are examples of tiny turtle steps:

  • Organize and declutter your workspace
  • Spend 10 min on LinkedIn following some companies or leaders you’d want to work with
  • Create a vision board
  • Go for a walk and listen to a business audiobook 
  • Just showing up to a free talk counts

And now for your homework:  Once a month, reach out to 1 person for an informational interview. Ask if they have 20-30 min for a phone call, zoom or in-person coffee (your treat) to share their career journey with you as you explore what you’d like to do. 

This is one of the most important things. It helps you get clarity and at the same time builds your network. Be sure to thank them afterwards with a few takeaways you got from their story and even update them as you progress in your career.

When I asked one of my first mentors how I could ever thank him, he just said “pay it forward.” And I continue to do so 30+ years later.

MOTTO: I have the knowledge I need to create the future I want.

And you do!

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