This was originally written on May 22, 2017
When I was getting started early on in my career I made a lot of mistakes. I was unhappy, working for people who didn’t respect me and I was lost. I was unsure as to whether or not I wanted to continue being a developer and for a while, I was unsure if I’d ever be able to make it. I was working my butt off and burning myself out for a company I didn’t believe in.
Here are four things I wish I had known when I was starting out.
Don’t chase money
I realize that everyone needs a certain amount of money to survive and I’m very privileged to be able to work at a place that I enjoy and pays me enough to cover all of my bills.
The advice I wish I knew when I started was to not pick the job purely because it offered $1k more a year. Find a place where you enjoy working at and then work your ass off. The difference in salaries will generally correct itself when you’re motivated and enjoy working at a place.
Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work and Founder of iOpener, agrees.
“Happiness at work is closely correlated with greater performance and productivity as well as greater energy, better reviews, faster promotion, higher income, better health and increased happiness with life. So it’s good for organizations and individuals, too.”
By enjoying the place you work at those promotions that close the gap generally come faster.
Find a mentor and ask for help
Finding a mentor early on in your career can be immensely beneficial. Mentors are someone you can ask for advice, someone who can help you get through tough situations with and someone who can help you get to where you need to be.
Mentors can come from anywhere. Don’t be afraid to talk to the senior leadership team at your organization. It’s easy to get into the mindset that they’re too busy or too important to talk to you but some of the best mentors I’ve had have come from the VP level.
You don’t always have to look upwards to find a mentor. Your colleagues, friends and acquaintances can also be mentors. Everyone has different experiences. People who work at the same level as you will have had different opportunities that you can learn from. These relationships can often be more collaborative since both sides can learn a lot.
It’s ok to fail
I wish I had taken more chances when I was starting my career. I had the mindset that failure was bad and should be avoided at all costs. Failure can be a great thing, as long as you learn from it. If you’re continually failing at the same thing, over and over, you’re only going to get frustrated. If you can take that failure and learn from it, you’ll be better prepared in the future.
It’s easier to fail when you’re just starting out since you’re likely to have less at risk. Once you have a family, mortgage and other responsibilities it’s harder to take risks since failure is more costly.
Family > Job
At the end of the day, your job is just a means to make money (and hopefully friends) to be able to spend more time with your family. There will be times where focusing on your career, spending long hours working, is putting your family first. You’re spending the time to learn, to further your career which directly benefits your family. The advice I’d have for my younger self is to always circle back and make sure the work I’m doing is putting my family first.
Is that 80 hour work week going to put me ahead so I can spend more time with my family in the future? Is this new position going to unlock things for me or give me more time with my family? If the answers no then you need to look really hard to see if it’s worth it.