You’ve heard all the classics before (including from us!): never stop revamping your resume. Practice your body language. Keep your network evergreen, because you never know when you’ll need it. These are all important and useful tips for anyone’s career, no matter what the industry. But if you’re just starting out, there are some more…off-the-record things that everyone learns the hard way, but people don’t really talk about. Let’s look at some of the things that happen to most of us, but aren’t necessarily in the career guides.
1. You’re going to fail (sometimes)
That sounds super harsh and pessimistic, right? But it’s also true. You’re not gonna fail all the time, or most of the time—don’t worry. But sometimes, things will go badly, and you will run into the big “F.” It happens to all of us—the straight-A overachievers, the guy who doesn’t care, the seasoned professional. Sometimes things just aren’t going to go well. And while it can be upsetting, especially if it leads to negative feedback or professional consequences, you have to be able to absorb it, take what lessons you can, and move on. And when it happens, remember that you’re not alone, and that some of the most important lessons come from falling on your face once in a while.
2. Set work-life boundaries early
At the start of any new job or career path, you want to set a great first impression. The one who starts early (or is impeccably on time every day), stays late, deftly responds to an after-hours email. Here’s the problem with that approach: it can turn into the status quo very quickly, as people start to expect that your hard-charging ways are just the way you operate and what they can expect from you. This is not to say you should slack off, or try to set expectations low. Rather, make sure you’re staking out personal boundaries and that you have personal outlets that balance out the job. If you don’t have a workout routine, or de-stressing activity, or something that keeps you happy and fulfilled outside of work, that’s a fast-track to burnout.
3. Don’t take everything so seriously
Yes, your career is important. Yes, you should be a strong advocate for yourself and not take crap from anyone. But if you’ve got your Game Face on all the time at work, you run the risk of alienating coworkers, bosses, anyone on the receiving end of your “don’t mess with me” vibe. Being flexible (and willing to take a step back and chill out) when necessary will help you keep a kind of equilibrium at work.
4. It’s okay to have imposter syndrome
You’ve probably heard about “imposter syndrome,” where people feel like they’re inadequate at their jobs and that everyone else is on the cusp of figuring out that they don’t belong there. Turns out, a little insecurity can go a long way toward helping your career. If you feel an overwhelming sense of inferiority, that could mean that you need more training or guidance. But if you feel more like you could take that feeling and direct it into professional development, or working more efficiently, then it can be a boon to your career.
No matter who you are, no matter what job you do, the most important career advice of all is “don’t worry.” As long as you’re working hard to improve yourself at every step of your career, you don’t always have to worry about whether you’re following the proper advice—it just has to be proper for you and your goals.