Pass or Fail: Eight Career Lessons You Can’t Learn in Class

“Some lessons can’t be taught; they can only be learned.” Whoever coined that expression probably spent some time on a payroll. The politics, infrastructure and expectations of a job – whether at an office or a job site – can be learned only through experience. Here are eight (sometimes tough) lessons we’ve learned along the way:

  1. The Homework Never Ends

If you want to excel in your chosen field, you have to avoid stagnation. Don’t wait for changes or new innovations to reach you – actively seek out information or resources that make you a more valuable employee. Networking is a great way to stay on the leading edge of your industry.

  1. The Dream Job Wake-up Call

Sometimes, the perfect job is surrounded by the wrong circumstance. For example, it may be located in a city that you simply can’t afford. Or, and this happens more than people like to admit, the profession simply isn’t what you expected. Don’t think you have to completely start over or give up – you likely have skills that translate well into other fields or departments. And it’s never too late to try something new.

  1. Learn to Say No

When you start a job, saying ‘yes’ to whatever comes your way is usually a good thing. However, this can make learning to say ‘no’ problematic, especially if you’re taking on so much that you start missing deadlines. Remember, saying ‘no’ at work isn’t a personal offense – it can be good business.

  1. Speak Up

The only thing worse than being a problem is being ignored or forgotten. Also, don’t be afraid to be the squeaky wheel, especially if you’re able to offer a solution to an issue you’ve noticed.

  1. A Boss From Below

A good boss is hard to find. Some people are better at managing projects than people, while others manage people better. So, while you can’t choose your boss, you can choose your reactions to this person. Find ways to work within his or her parameters. And in the meantime, you’ll figure out what you can and can’t tolerate.

  1. Work-Life Imbalance

The 9-to-5-work schedule is a myth. While technology has made telecommuting a fact of life for many, that 24/7 access means it’s hard to stay off the grid. With research proving

that long hours lead to inefficiency (or even health issues), stay firm about how much you can handle (see lesson 3 above).

  1. Keeping Good Company

Depending on your career, your relationships with co-workers can make or break your advancement. As a rule, it’s best to seek out and nurture working relationships with people whose work you admire.

  1. Be Yourself

It’s hard to lead a double life, and doubly so at the office. Don’t fake skills or pretend to have connections you haven’t cultivated (yet). Be honest about your abilities and open to expanding your skills, and you’ll likely find success. Employers love authenticity.

And that’s just a few of the many lessons you’ll learn throughout your working life. What advice would you share with someone entering the workforce? Share your insight in the comments section below.

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