My Lost (and Found) Advice to Someone Starting a New Career

Photo by Ivan Karpov

Back in the summer of 2018, I had lunch with my cousin Dallas in New York City’s Koreatown. It was his first week working at a tech startup after transitioning careers from a high school teacher. The combination of him being my younger cousin and me leaving a stint at a similar startup was a dangerous combination. It brought out that feeling we’ve all had before.

That feeling when we think we know what we’re talking about. 

That lunch is a great memory and I’m proud to say that Dallas has gotten a few deserved promotions since then. But until last week, the nitty gritty of our conversation was a bit vague. Another conversation dissolved into the winds of time. 

Or maybe not. 

We were recently chatting and he mentioned that he still sometimes looks back on my advice from that dumpling filled lunch. He keeps the list on his phone and was kind enough to share it with me. Surprisingly, I think it stands the test of time. 

Here’s the advice I gave my cousin as he embarked on his new career. And it’s the same advice I’d give today to anyone in a similar situation.  

📌 Keep a running list of your accomplishments. It will be useful during your year-end review and for maintaining your resume. 

📌 If you have nothing to do in a meeting, take good notes and share. 

📌 If you have too much to do, ask your manager to prioritize.

📌 For client emails that require a decision, provide options. Give the pros and cons of each option and make a recommendation. 

📌 Craft every communication based on the recipient. Usually managers will want a summary at the top. You can follow with details and they will dig in as needed. 

📌 Use a service like followupthen to keep track of email follow up.

📌 You’re going to be asking for a lot of internal favors or questions on behalf of your clients. You don’t always want to be making withdrawals. Find ways to make deposits.

📌 Ask your manager what her expectations are to knock your job out of the park. Write them down and check in every so often to see how you’re doing. 

📌 Always look for ways to improve or standardize things. Those things often fall through the cracks.

📌 Find ways to make your manager look good.

📌 Find ways to let people know what you’ve accomplished in normal convos. When a leader asks how you’re doing, mention a recent accomplishment. This is obviously a balancing act but they’ll eventually associate you with success.

📌 You’ll likely have to do the next level job while still doing your current job. Look at the things that those people are doing and start doing them. 

What would you add to the list?

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