Unless you can invent a time-traveling machine or become Jennifer Garner’s character in “13 Going on 30,” you may never get a second chance to go back in time and re-do or undo parts of your life you wish you could change. Fortunately for you, we asked real-life seasoned professionals to spill secrets and offer up advice they would give to their younger job-seeking selves.
Here’s a roundup of the best advice we compiled — listen, learn and take a page out of the playbook from these pros.
Expand your horizons.
“Study overseas.” — Elsa Wong, via LinkedIn
“I would tell my younger self: Don’t be afraid to try anything outside of your comfort zone.” — Leana Nieto, via Twitter
“The advice I would give is to intern and volunteer as much as possible. So many times I would be in an interview and no one would care about my MBA — they would ask about work experience and any internships that I held. Even if it’s part time, it shows that you went above and beyond and are willing to dedicate your time to a cause.” — Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal
“Broaden your initial ideas of what career path you might take. With a solid education and a passion for pursuit, you’d be surprised at how many opportunities can present themselves in areas you wouldn’t have originally explored. Having your ‘dream job’ in mind is a great place to start, but don’t let it close your mind to exploring alternative paths, since those might eventually lead you right back to where you wanted to be.” — Brian Pickler, president of furniture store chain Nadeau
Be more strategic in your job search.
“My advice to my younger self would be find a job with opportunities for advancement, tuition/training reimbursement for ongoing education, and a good retirement plan.” — Sue diRosario
“Talk to more people. Informational interviews can be a treasure trove of insights into jobs you (think you) want and how to get them.” — Mashaal Ahmed, career coach and resume writer
“Take an internship!” — Liza Robinson, via LinkedIn
“I’d suggest my younger self to keep a branding statement/elevator pitch ready — a statement that communicates my passion [and] the essence of who I am in my career can be a good ice breaker and an easy way to stand apart from the competition.” — Lauren Gibbson
“Jobs and job leads can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be on your best behaviour and make a great lasting impression. You’d be amazed where some of my best contacts have come from over the years — a gardener who also happened to work for someone who was in a position to help, a hair stylist who had well heeled (and coiffed) clients, standing in line for the bathroom at a conference I struck up a conversation with a top recruiter. Seriously be nice to everyone and make friends before you need them; you never know who is in or will be in a position to help!” — Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing firm Mavens & Moguls
Do what you love.
“I think I’d tell myself: You were right to make your career choices based on what you enjoy doing rather than what others consider prestigious, but don’t settle. If you ever get to a point where you’re not learning anything new, or it doesn’t look like you can advance to the next step on merit, move on without hesitation.” — James Rice, head of digital marketing, WikiJob
“My advice: Follow your productive passions. You have something you’re really good at and passionate about? Do that, and the career will follow. Don’t focus on the money.” — Daniel Mulec, data analyst employed by Globotech onsite at Apple Inc. and writer at WeWillWork
“If I had the opportunity to give a piece of career guidance to my younger self, I would advise myself to be honest and genuine — both with myself and others — about what inspires and motivates me as a professional. As a young job seeker, it can be easy to follow the ‘path of least resistance’ and ride out your first job to a managerial position without trying new things. But only by experimenting — and devoting a significant amount of time to introspection and self-reflection — can you effectively identify a career path that aligns with your passions.” — Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, an online learning platform
Work hard and have confidence in yourself.
“My advice would be to keep your head down, learn your craft and work hard. Don’t always be the one to be seeking promotions right away, even if you think you’re deserving of it. … If you work for a good organisation, you’ll get recognised for your work in due course.” — Daniel M. Lazarz, broker – professional services group, Swett and Crawford
“Be patient. It takes time to establish yourself within a company; work to learn the business, understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, and then focus on growth.” — Kristen Coppins, manager at Professional Staffing Group
“Don’t tell yourself ‘no’ when it comes to applying for promotions or a role just outside of your current expertise. That’s the hiring manager’s job.” — Uniqueka Jenkins, marketing coordinator at Brudis & Associates Inc.