They say hindsight is 20/2o. And that’s never more true when it comes to your career. “If only I wish I knew then what I know now” is a common lament among seasoned professionals. Unfortunately, humans have yet to find a way to send career advice backward through time to their younger selves. Luckily, there is a way to glimpse what may be down the line: By learning from the experience of professionals with more years in the workforce under their belts.
We asked some of today’s leading career experts what advice they wish they had been given early in their careers. Here’s what they had to say:
#1: Get a mentor.
A lot of people – particularly those who are young and looking to prove themselves – have difficulty asking for help. As they get older, most come to realize they wished they had been able to seek out advice earlier. There’s no shame in learning from a mentor’s experience – even Batman has Alfred.
“Get as many smart, compassionate, proactive mentors as possible,” says Carlota Zimmerman, career strategist and speaker. “Get mentors who can give you advice and be positive role models in your life, before you start to burn out and lose your mind.
#2: Start saving.
Learning to properly manage your money is a lifelong skill that you’ll thank yourself for heartily down the road. It may not be the most fun or unique piece of advice, but saving your money starting early in your career is one of the most proven strategies to improving your life.
“Don’t wait to start saving money,” says Michael Lan, senior resume consultant at Resume Writer Direct. “At the beginning of your career, your pay may seem so insignificant that it won’t amount to anything, which may cause you to spend a lot more on impulse, but it actually makes a huge difference if you start saving at a young age versus starting in your 30’s or 40’s. The sooner you begin investing or saving for your retirement plan, the more your funds will increasingly grow over time.”
#3: Set the right goals.
Especially early on in your career, chasing that next promotion or new job title can seem like the best way forward, but that’s not always the case. Many people find themselves so caught up in this line of thinking that by the time they realize what they were chasing wasn’t even what they ultimately wanted, it may be too late.
“Focus more on your personal development and less on your job title,” says Jenn DeWall, career and life coach. “Be patient with your career path. Success will come. Don’t waste time only focusing on climbing the corporate ladder. Focus on learning all that you can in each position, knowing that your credibility and experience will be more well-rounded if you truly understand the big picture versus just simply focusing on having a specific title under your belt.”
#4: Learn to let go.
“Small daily frustrations can get pent up and suddenly explode at the least opportune moment,” says Theresa Fox, president and CEO of DeStressify. “If we repress emotions, we get physical issues. If we express them, we may get relationship issues. Learn to release emotions in a healthier way with visualizations so you can get ‘unstuck’ without destructive behaviors.”
“Everything seems like it could be the end of the world when you’re young,” says Erik Bowitz, career expert at Resume Genius. “However, in reality, taking a deep breath and realizing you are in a marathon not a sprint can do a lot too alleviate unnecessary pressure and stress. Without worrying so much, anyone can become a more confident and therefore productive worker.”
#5: Do what makes you happy.
We can’t all have dream jobs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what you love. There’s a reason many employers focus on providing their employees with a quality work-life balance – happy employees are more effective employees. So take the time to relax and enjoy yourself once in a while – it may even help you professionally.
“One of the simplest and most effective ways to decrease stress levels is to find something that makes you happy,” Fox says. “Whether it is an after work run, music therapy or winding down the workweek with friends, finding a release gives you the opportunity to recharge after long hours on the job.”
#6: Be confident.
“Never convince yourself that you’re not good enough to do something,” Lan says. “By selling yourself short, you’re limiting your options and ruling out possibilities that could have otherwise been great opportunities for you. No matter how likely your goal may be, continue persevering and giving yourself chances to succeed. Effort will never betray you.”
What do you wish you could tell your younger career-minded self? Tweet us at @CareerBuilder.
Matt Tarpey researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.