When you’re just starting out—whether it’s as a college grad, a job seeker or the founder of your own business—it can be hard to know what steps to take.
How do you make big (and little) decisions? What should you focus on? How do you handle the day-to-day stress?
Thankfully, we’re not blazing our trails all by our lonesome. Plenty of people have gone before us—and succeeded. And from them, we can learn some great lessons on how to rock our own careers. So, we thought we’d ask some of them.
We asked some of today’s top entrepreneurs, thought leaders, speakers and bloggers what one piece of career advice they would give to young professionals. And, as expected, their answers were both insightful and inspiring.
So get your notepad out, because you’re going to want to remember these:
Ash Ambirge, Founder of The Middle Finger Project (@TMFProject)
Don’t wait for anyone to give you anything, and certainly not a job. Want to be a famous author? Get writing. Want to edit videos? Get editing. Anyone can start their own business and actually be the big shot, while most people are sitting around, waiting for someone else just to grace them with the title.
Corbett Barr, Creator of Think Traffic (@corbettbarr)
Don’t start out doing something because it’s “good experience” or because you can make “good money.” Start out in a field you really love, no matter how impractical your parents or friends tell you it might be. Essentially: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
Jenny Blake, Founder of Life After College (@jenny_blake)
Be dynamic. Don’t expect your first job to provide 100 percent glee and fulfillment. Learn what you can and give it your best while you are there—AND keep exploring your other interests, whether it’s a hobby like cooking or a “side hustle” like starting your own blog or business, in your free time.
Catherine Caine, Boss Lady of Cash & Joy (@CatherineCaine)
Motivation fluctuates. Some days you’re fired up and ready to do ALL THE THINGS, and others you seriously can’t be arsed. The smartest thing you can do is choose work that requires very little motivation. Y’know, work that you enjoy and care about and believe in.
Arvind Devalia, Coach, Author, Speaker and Blogger at Make It Happen (@ArvindDevalia)
If you’re starting out in your professional career, you should know and accept that you can’t reach the top overnight! It takes diligence, application and effort in any position you first start out in. By doing well in each post, you are more likely to be noticed and progress rapidly. Avoid getting involved in company politics and give every day your best, and strive for excellence, not perfection!
Scott Gerber, Founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (@askgerber)
Create a job to keep a job. In these tough economic times, the job market is uncertain for young people. Figure out something you can start with your own two hands on your own time and on your own dime. You don’t need investors; you just need to be practical and realistic. Build your own success.
Ryan Healy, Co-Founder and COO of Brazen Careerist, Inc. (@rjhealy)
Take a risk and do what you love. The worst thing you can do early in your career is settling for a job that is safe and comfortable. Taking a leap to do something that may seem risky will set your career on a path that you want from the beginning, and you won’t wake up at 40 wondering what could have been.
Benny Hsu, Blogger and Appreneur at Get Busy Living (@benny_hsu)
Take more risks. Don’t be afraid of failure. Being younger is advantageous because if you fail, you have much more time to get back up and try again. You also likely to have less responsibility than a person with a family and a mortgage. So failing while you’re younger is much easier. Take advantage of it!
Craig Jarrow, Founder of Time Management Ninja (@TMNinja)
Even in these days of the Internet and seemingly immediate access to everything, there is no such thing as instant success. Overnight sensations are just flashes in the pan or one-hit wonders. True, lasting success takes years of hard work and discipline. Be willing to do the work.
Danielle LaPorte, Author, Business Strategist and Inspirational Speaker (@daniellelaporte)
It’s all about relationships. Every victory, every stressor, every laugh, every breakthrough and almost everything you appreciate about your work and your life will be about the relationships you have.
Jonathan Mead, Chief Troublemaker at Paid to Exist (@jonathanmead)
Constantly look for ways you can create and seize opportunities. Find people that you love to work with and work that you enjoy. Fall in love with it.
J. Money, Founder of Budgets Are Sexy (@budgetsaresexy)
Find something you REALLY want to be good at—even if it’s something small—and then do whatever it takes to rock it. Immerse yourself in books/blogs/networking, whatever it takes to really own that skill. It’s okay to be decent at a whole bunch of things, but being the BEST at one where your name is the first that’s associated with it can pay off immensely. You want people to start adjective-izing your name just like Google has managed to do.
Bobby Ocampo, Director of Revolution (@ocampob)
Get better every day. Wake up in the morning and visualize what you want to accomplish. Be proactive and take action. Every day is a gift. Don’t take it for granted.
Joan Otto, Editor of Man Vs. Debt (@manvsdebt)
Don’t ever be “too good” to do anything, and see the big picture in those little tasks. My first job was typing the obituaries for a local newspaper—a job nobody wanted. But not only did I do them; I developed a system that made them more accurate and quicker to process—and THAT mindset led to a 13-plus-year career there, a management position, flexible hours and more. (And my degree was in mathematics!)
Andrea Owen, Founder of Your Kick-Ass Life Coaching (@andrea_owen)
You CAN have it all; you just can’t have it all at once. Especially for young women who decide to have a family and work. I think we compare ourselves to what we make up about other women—that they’re doing it all perfectly and loving every minute of it. But the truth is, it’s really hard sometimes, and we fall short in certain areas. It’s just life. So be kind to yourself.
Srinivas Rao, Host/Founder of Blogcast FM (@skooloflife)
So many of the choices we make when we’re young are ego-driven: What looks good on paper? What has the highest starting salary? I only know because it’s what I tried. What I’d say is, look for where the opportunity will eventually lead.
Joel Runyon, Founder of Impossible HQ (@joelrunyon)
Find jobs, projects and people that you can learn something from and put to use practically. Don’t just take a job to take a job. Have a purpose behind doing so.
Jody Thompson, Co-Founder of CultureRX and The Results-Only Work Environment (@JodyROWE)
As a mother of two sons in their 20s, the piece of career advice I gave them—and would give to any young professional—is first, do what you love. Doing what you love gives you the intrinsic motivation to be successful doing what you’re passionate about. For the first part of my career, I did what I loved. Then I thought I needed to switch careers, climb the corporate ladder and make more money—where I became seriously demotivated and disengaged. Do what you love. The rest will follow.
Carol Tice, Owner of the Make a Living Writing Blog and The Freelance Writers Den Community (@TiceWrites)
Go into business for yourself, as soon as you possibly can. There’s never been a time in history that is more receptive to young people starting their own business. You’ll never earn as much from any employer as you’ll have the potential to achieve as an owner. If you’re at a job, start a low-cost side business. Learn all you can about entrepreneurship and business-building from any owners you work with. Have a vision of where you want your career to go, and then ask yourself frequently if you’re in the right place to learn what you need to get there. If not, seek out mentors and get the knowledge you need.