Here are 22 solid career lessons as a result of over 3 decades of professional research.
Lesson 1.You're like a small company: "You, Ltd." Even if you work for a big company, you're on your own. Companies aren't people. They're things, often uncaring things. Companies don't have feelings. Those who expect companies to "take care of them", or to "do the right thing" are often disappointed, especially when they feel they have strong friendships in the company. No one (can or should) cares more about your career than you do. Remember that, and don't expect "the company" to take care of you.
Lesson 2.Certain people belong in certain kinds of jobs. You do have special gifts that fit you for some, disqualify you for others. Self knowledge is essential (but rare). Take time to assess your skills, temperament, and aptitudes in depth. Everyone--even senior executives--could benefit from the help of a qualified career counselor.
Lesson 3.Careers are short-term. On any given day, your present job can end, even if you own the company! Therefore, think short term. Don't take your present opportunity for granted. I define a consultant as "Someone who wakes up every morning unemployed." You should feel the same way. Wake up every morning feeling unemployed--appreciate your job--and figure out what you're going to do next. It's always great to have a "Plan B."
Lesson 4. It's more important to be a "people person" than to be an achievement-oriented person always winning at the cost of others. People skills are more important than technical skills. Even in technical jobs, you have to interface with someone. Often the average performers who are easier to get along with last longer.
Lesson 5.Your achievements (results, accomplishments) are your stepping stone for the future. They will determine your marketability. In marketing yourself, it's results that count. Make sure you're contributing something substantial and measurable every single day. Make sure you keep a written record of your results. Always ask yourself at the end of each day “What have I achieved today?”
Lesson 6.If you lose your job, 80% of your marketing for a new position is already done. That's right. Your reputation, results, accomplishments, people skills, kindnesses, contributions, friendships are all a matter of record. If you've been a contributor, if you've been kind to others and easy-to-work-with, you'll be in demand. If not, you won't. No consultant in the world can create friendship for you if you haven't created it for yourself.
Lesson 7.Changing fields, industries, and functional specialties is difficult, and more difficult the bigger the change. Plastics manufacturers won't want to hire you if you've been in steel. And vice versa. Choose your career path carefully. As management expert Peter Drucker says, "The best way to predict the future is to plan it."
Lesson 8.Salesman, Customer Service Representative, Staff Accountant, Technical Writer isn't a career. Accounts Payable Clerk, Junior Accountant, Accountant, Controller, Chief Financial Officer, Vice President of Finance is a career.
Lesson 9.People tend to earn what they deserve to earn.
Lesson 10.Love, happiness, friendship, and time for oneself are just as important as career. If career is everything in your life, you could be disappointed if your career is sidetracked.
Lesson 11.If you're fired or laid off, ask yourself why you didn't see it coming; or if you did see it coming, ask yourself why you didn't do something about it. Figure out your part in causing the problem. Then set about creating a new, better life for yourself. There is a better life in your future.
Lesson 12.Don't ever let yourself be unemployed, even for a day. Volunteer a few hours, work part-time for a temporary agency, help a friend in his or her company. Do something to get yourself out of the house. Unemployment is a mind-set you should avoid.
Lesson 13.Don't stay in a job you hate. Hating your job can kill you.
Lesson 14.Too much success can kill you. Notice I said "too much success," not "too much stress." Learn when enough is enough. Success itself can cause you problems. If you think you're burning out, you may be right. Highly successful people are the most subject to burnout of all. They demand the most from themselves--and everyone around them
Lesson 15.Success is difficult. If success were easy, everyone would be successful.
Lesson 16.There's a special place for everyone. You can create the kind of future you want. Just remember:
Lesson 17.Nothing good happens fast.
Lesson 18.The workplace is fun and challenging. It can also be cruel and heartless. It rewards effort and planning, but tends to punish indifference and lack of preparation. Those who don't manage their careers--who just let things happen-often end up in painful, dead-end jobs and lifestyles.
Lesson 19.You are fully in control of your own future. No one can deny you a happy life if you decide to plan it and work for it. No one can stop you from becoming successful, but yourself.
Lesson 20.It's never too late for a new beginning.
Lesson 21.Your friends--even distant friends--are your best allies in a job-search. No one will help you more than those who already know your name. So make an extensive list of everyone you've met in life--and let them know your situation.
Lesson 22.Align yourself with winners. Hang around with winners. Success really does rub off from others. There's no substitute for "knowing the right people," and for "being in the right place at the right time."