Time Travel Career Advice: What I Would Tell My New Graduate Self

time travel career adviceTime travel career advice would be an oh-so-hot hot commodity if it were remotely possible.

If only we could turn back time (ala Cher), oh, the mistakes we could avoid, the smarter decisions we could make, and even, different career paths we might even find ourselves following.

But it is what it is. I am where I am now because of those twists and turns. And quite frankly, I can’t regret it because the road I’ve taken has been paved with risks and rewards, and has led to an amazing life for which I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to live.

But, along with the fun parts are the painful ones.

As the next crop of fresh new graduates are getting ready to launch themselves out into the world, I started thinking about the words of wisdom I would impart with them to help them navigate through the painful parts. (Hopefully, they would be listening, too!)

So if I could provide time travel career advice to not only my former self, but also to these new grads, here’s what I would tell them:

Dress for one career level higher.

Someone told me to do this once and it forever made a difference in my life. If you take your professionalism seriously, so will others. If your mental framework is always focused on the present versus the future (what you could be), well, guess what happens. And unfortunately, workplace attire is one place where this is the most apparent.  Take your cues from your co-workers, and dress the part. It’s all about visualization.

Don’t be afraid to say no.

Sometimes, when you are desperate for work, you’ll say yes to anything. However, that means by saying yes to something that is less than desirable, it means you’ve already said no to the opportunity that could be around the next corner.  True story for time travel career advice: I took a less-than-perfect job because my dream job was slow on making a hiring decision, and the employer I worked for ended up sexually harassing me. It was a nightmare. And you know what? The dream job people called 2 months into the nightmare job and wanted to hire me, but I was determined to try and make a go of the bad one. Sigh.

Take on more responsibility where there’s opportunity to do so.

True go-getters know that doing the minimal amount possible speaks volumes about motivation, potential, and how employers end up perceiving you. Instead, these go-getters are willing to take on additional responsibility, tackle the tough assignments, and even take one for the team for tasks that no one else is willing to do. What these successful people know is that they are building their career narrative as dependable, hard-working employees that have ambition and initiative.  Looking back using time travel career advice, it’s easy to see that this leads to raises and promotions.

Strive for excellence.

It’s easy to get your work done and call it good, but if you consistently produce excellence in everything you do, gradually, you BECOME that excellence. It’s a mental discipline that happens over time, and becomes one of your biggest tools in your job search arsenal. Having a reputation for excellence has a knack for spreading farther and wider than you can ever imagine, and can open future doors that you never knew possible.

Keep track of everything.

Create a career file (electronic or hard copy) where you can keep records of your performance reviews, plan of work, kudos letters, staff reports, professional conferences attended, etc.  Time travel career advice will tell you that as you update your résumé and LinkedIn profile, you’ll be eternally grateful to have these resource materials at your fingertips instead of wracking your brain trying to remember what you did the past few years.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

A lot of times, employers don’t know what you want until you ask for it. Want a raise? Ask for it, and then provide documentation as to why you deserve it. Want to be promoted? Let them know and demonstrate how you could help them in the new role.

Elevate others.

You don’t get ahead by pushing others down. The opposite is actually true in the long-term. Looking back using time travel career advice, it might seem that the “backstabbers” get ahead, but eventually, their reputation for being untrustworthy and harmful to work environments catches up to them.

I hope that new graduates read this advice and find some of it useful.  You won’t know it until later on, but using time travel career advice can help you avoid painful mistakes in the present.