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DEAR GRADUATE


After that first-job glow fades, 5 ways to stay ahead

By Kim Kim Oon, Senior Manager, Accenture Strategy, Kuala Lumpur

LinkedIn


Wisdom I wish I had when I first entered the work world.

Joining the working world for the first time is new and exciting. All bright-eyed and fresh from university, we feel that we have finally made it into the “adult” world, and our careers will soar because we have the perfect job.

However, after a few years, we replace our dreams and ideals with questions about the future. We feel lost, worry about what will happen in the next 5-10 years, and if we will be successful. We constantly think about whether or not we should just quit and do something totally different. More than half the time, we feel that we don’t even know what we are doing—or why we are doing it!

If you are feeling this way, rest assured, most of us feel or have felt the same way at one point or another. However, there are some principles that I have held on to that have helped guide me through this:

BE WILLING TO LEARN—ALWAYS

BE WILLING TO LEARN—ALWAYS!

The first 5-7 years of your career should be focused on building skills. Whatever comes your way, good or bad, always be willing to embrace it and learn as much as you can from it.

Don’t just confine yourself to learning from the official tasks that have been assigned to you—push yourself outside of your comfort zone and take the opportunity to expand your learning beyond your role.

Also, learning is also about learning what not to do. I used to work for a manager who did not spend time coaching and treated juniors with very limited respect. I realized how much I disliked this approach and strive to be a leader who coaches and inspires my juniors, with stewardship—careful management—at the heart of it.

BE PASSIONATE

BE PASSIONATE.

Passion drives motivation and our willingness to give a task our 200 percent. Some of us spend more time at work than at home, so it is important to do something that we like and enjoy.

With passion, comes the right attitude and, with that, half the battle is won.

Passion can be demonstrated through your enthusiasm in learning about the task at hand, finding a way to exceed expectations, keeping up with the latest developments in your area of work, sharing your thought leadership with your network, and establishing a brand name for yourself in that area.

Your managers will notice whether you are passionate, which will form their perception in the early days of your career.

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK.

You have probably heard this advice a hundred times, but it is vital that we continuously network actively. Often, career success is about who has effectively forged the relationship that will secure the role, job or promotion.

We should network within and outside the organization—attend team dinners, participate in leadership development programs, take part in industry conferences, or even do something fun like going for wine-tasting events!

We should look for mentors and role models beyond our immediate direct supervisor as different people are able to give us different perspectives to help shape who we are, from a personal and career development point of view.

You will also be surprised to find out how many people are willing to help make you successful—all you have to do is ask!

 


Don’t just confine yourself to learning from the official tasks that have been assigned to you—push yourself outside of your comfort zone and take the opportunity to expand your learning beyond your role.

STEER YOUR OWN CAREER

STEER YOUR OWN CAREER.

Everyone’s career journey is different: Even those who start out in the same role within the same organization will take different paths. It is a bit of a cliché to say that “destiny is in your hands,” but it is true—you need to steer your career, understand what you want out of it, and never be afraid to share your goals and ambitions with your superiors.

All things being equal, it is usually those who have explicitly stated that they want the role or promotion who will be given greater opportunities than those who stayed silent.

I have always wanted to work outside of my home country to get international exposure to the diverse cultures and different operating environments. I made this known to my manager, and, eventually, we made this happen. To date, I have had the opportunity to work across six different countries!

NO” CAN BE AS POWERFUL AS “YES.”

"NO” CAN BE AS POWERFUL AS “YES.”

You will hear the term “work-life balance” often spoken in workplaces. People tend to equate that with being able to go home on time every day. The nature of some of the work we choose to pursue may not permit us to do so. Some of us make a lot of sacrifices to get ahead in our careers.

We need to determine what is fundamentally important and learn to say “no” when it conflicts with our personal priorities.

I make it a point to go for Pilates, catch up with friends and family over a nice meal on weekends, watch movies, and travel. My bucket list is to travel to Antarctica!

Do whatever it is that will help you find your balance and de-stress to make sure you don’t burn out. Like the saying goes, work hard, play hard!

For a lot of us, our career is a big part of our lives. You have many years ahead of you in the career ladder and do not know where the road is going to take you. At the end of the day, the question you should ask yourself is whether this experience has made you a better person. And most importantly, just enjoy the journey and have fun along the way!




It is usually those who have explicitly stated that they want the role or promotion who will be given greater opportunities than those who stayed silent.




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