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5 valuable lessons I learned in my 36-year long career

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On October 7 this year, I completed thirty-six years in my career as a journalist and a content specialist. During the course of these three decades and more I learned a great deal in every job I held since 1986. I’m not talking about the knowledge, practical skills, and expertise I gained in different workplaces. I’m referring to things that no job position, leader or teamwork could have taught me.

Here are five lessons, in no particular order, I have learned in my career so far. I might add that some of these are also based on the experiences of other working people I have known all these years.

Don’t take up a job for the sake of it

While it is often necessary to accept any line of work in the early days of your career, treat it as a stepping stone to move into a job for which you have a passion and for which you have been trained. Answer to your calling when you’re still young so that you don’t fall into a comfort zone and waste your prime years in a job you don’t like. Step out and do what you’d love to do and what you’re really good at.

Speak up for yourself

There will be times when your performance will go unnoticed or unappreciated and that can be demoralising. This is in fact a universal workplace issue. According to a recent OnePoll survey in the US, over 63% of workers felt unappreciated by their employers on a daily basis, while 59% said they’d never had a boss who truly appreciated their work. But you do have a choice: Speak up for yourself. Talk about your role or contribution without sounding boastful. Let others in your workplace know of your achievement. Sometimes, in order to be valued for what you do, it’s necessary to blow your own trumpet.

Never sell yourself short

Avoid belittling yourself in front of your superiors and colleagues, and never underestimate or play down your role in the company or the value of your work. Just because your abilities and accomplishments are not acknowledged or rewarded does not mean that you have to turn the gun on yourself. As American tennis player Arthur Ashe is believed to have said, “Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.” While you can be realistic about your shortcomings, if any, avoid speaking about yourself in a negative way. It will not only not do your self-esteem any good, you’ll likely end up putting mental brakes on your career path.

Ask and you will get it

One of the first things I learned in my career was this – you’ll seldom get something without asking for it. One of the reasons why employers may overlook you for a promotion or salary hike is because of your lack of visibility, which in turn could be because your superior or reporting manager is either not valuing your work or not pushing you enough with the management. If you think you’re being sidelined, deliberately or otherwise, then the best thing you can do is to fight your own case. Be bold and ask for that promotion or raise you deserve. You’ve nothing to worry about because you're already getting the short end of the stick.

Photo: Headway/Unsplash
Bond with the right people

The people you work with is nearly as important as the job you do. Befriend co-workers with a healthy and positive attitude, and who will stand by you through your highs and lows. A good colleague will support and encourage you every step of the way, while a bad one will resent your success and pull you down at every opportunity. Choose your co-workers wisely, for they’ll help you to navigate work-related challenges and thrive in your job.

3 bonus lessons

1. Go the extra mile: Make a special effort to do more than you’re required to do, such as taking up a project or an assignment that’s not a part of your job profile. This will earn you more goodwill and recognition, and make you stand out as an honest and a reliable worker.

2. Use up your paid or earned leave: The best way to de-stress or recharge your batteries is to use up your annual leave and take periodical breaks or go on vacations. You owe it both to yourself and to your family.

3. Avoid office gossip: While a bit of workplace gossip is inevitable and harmless, engaging in loose talk or uncalled-for criticism about colleagues behind their backs can be toxic and detrimental to your reputation, productivity and growth. There’s nothing to be gained from this behaviour. Besides, it’s also morally wrong.

A final word.

It’s not just the years you put in your career that counts – it’s also how you push yourself in the workplace and get better outcomes for yourself that matters.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

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