As the host of a popular podcast sharing the inspirational career stories of the people behind them, I have learnt a lot about the highs and lows of careers. Guests interviewed include BBC Apprentice runner-up Bianca Miller-Cole, TV chef and NHS GP Dr Rupy Aujla, Paralympian Elizabeth Wright, Ru Paul’s Drag Race finalist Divina De Campo, and Not Going to Uni’s commercial director Conor Cotton. To celebrate National Careers Week, I have been asked to share some of the best career advice I’ve heard from the 70 guests featured so far. I hope that you find it as useful as I have in guiding my own career.
- BE AUTHENTIC (TO YOURSELF)
We often confuse ‘living our best life’ with being authentic. Something that I’ve learnt from interviewing guests is that being authentic is actually about understanding yourself. Be honest with yourself about what makes you happy. The work you enjoy doing, the people you enjoy spending time with, and when you feel the most energised. Keep a journal and notice what you are observing about yourself. So many guests talk about life being too short to spend it doing something we don’t enjoy, and I’d agree.
- BE MORE CURIOUS
Things can and should evolve when it comes to your career. Be open to that evolution and willing to grow and change direction. Develop yourself over time, in different ways. The beauty of life is that it is not static – no one should expect you to stay the same. There is always more that you don't know, there are jobs you don't know about, and there are going to be some amazing people that you will meet on the way. Be curious and ask people about their career stories, and how they got there. They might inspire you to follow them in a direction you hadn’t considered before.
- BE BRAVE
We all have a place in this world, however, for many of us our journey is likely to be harder than for others that we live and work with. If this applies to you then it’s important to be brave with your voice – do not be afraid to positively challenge people where needed. It can be tiring which is why it’s also important that you seek support from trusted people around you. Some people call these their allies – the people who will speak for you when you aren’t in the room.
- BE SCARED (AND BOUNCE FORWARDS)
Never underestimate what you can learn from difficult moments in your life and your career – you can learn to use the pain in what you experience, to make positive changes. Use darker times in your life to fuel your passion and your purpose. Failure isn’t always bad. You can also learn a lot from taking risks. Change is scary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of the opportunities that life throws at you. People will worry and be scared for you. That’s natural – it’s a sign that they care for you. Be confident in why you are making your choices and ask for their support.
- BE FLEXIBLE
Many of guests talk about the regrets they have – being too busy and not taking time to celebrate their achievements comes up a lot. They were either caught in the trap of being too busy or too exhausted from over-committing themselves. It’s important to strike a balance and understand what your motivations are so that you can focus your efforts in progressing your career, but it’s also important to have fun and enjoy the ride. Take time to intentionally slow down and reap the rewards of the work that you do. If the last year has taught us anything it’s that with the best will in the world, and the best five-year business plan, you have no idea what’s in store for you when you do put yourself out there. Be flexible in mind and approach, whilst maintaining a good sense of humour.
FINALLY…BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
We can all research and weigh up our pros and cons, but we can drive ourselves mad in the process. Learn to trust your instincts and recognise when something great is happening - how it makes you feel physically and emotionally. If you have imposter syndrome, realize that an awful lot of other people have it as well. There are lots of people faking it and covering up the cracks. Working towards being more confident in yourself and your abilities is a great way to start to discover the best version of yourself.
You can listen to the latest episodes of the My Career Story podcast weekly at anchor.fm/mycareerstory