Tag Archives: entry level

Professional Associations: Helping Professionals Progress Their Careers

Professional associations are some of the most helpful (but often under used) resources for networking.  There are literally thousands of professional associations representing every different type of industry and profession.

A professional association is a group of professionals within a career field who come together for:

  • Individual professional development and advancement
  • Promoting the field as well as educating the public on issues related to the industry
  • Networking and collaborating
  • Sharing new ideas and practices that set standards for the industry and workplace
  • Representing interests of industry before federal, state and local governments

To explore and discover the professional association that would fit your goals, visit the American Society of Association Executives at www.asaecenter.org or you can visit their searchable directory to find associations in Colorado by clicking here.

Following is an interview with Mark Beese, who was recently inducted into the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame.  Mark is also a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management.

Mark is President of Leadership for Lawyers, a consultancy dedicated to helping professionals become better leaders and business developers. He is the former Chief Marketing Officer of Holland & Hart, a 450 attorney law firm based in Denver.  Mark also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law, where he teaches Strategic Marketing and Business Development. Contact him at mark@leadershipforlawyers.com and www.leadershipforlawyers.com.

How can job seekers benefit from engaging with professional associations during their job search?

Hopefully you haven’t waited to get involved with a professional association before you had to start a search.  Even if you did, find the one or two associations that best fit your career interest, attend meetings and work the room.  Look for highly connected people (ask the Chapter President or Program Committee Chair) and ask them for introductions to people who do what you want to do.  When you find them, ask them for help in the form of an informational interview.  You would be surprised how willing people are to help others.  Take them out for coffee, lunch or drink and pick their brain.  Ask:

–    How did you get into the business?
–    What advice would you have for someone trying to break into the profession/industry?
–    What skills, training, experience or background is critical to land a job in this area?
–    What companies in this area hire people like you?
–    Do you know of any companies hiring in this area?
–    Whom else should I talk to in order to learn more about the profession and job opportunities?

Don’t sell, be pushy, self-centered or ungrateful.  Keep in touch with the contact so that when you land your dream job, you can thank her or him for the role they played in your success.

And if you are the someone lucky enough to be asked out for coffee, lunch or drink:

–    Say yes when asked for help.  You likely benefited from a mentor, coach or kind person years ago and you need to pay if forward.  Pay for said cup of coffee, lunch or beer.  Money can be tight for a job hunter.
–    Be open about your story – your successes and failures – and take the opportunity to encourage the job seeker.
–    Search your network for people who might be able to open doors, give advice or offer assistance to the seeker.  Make an email or personal introduction.
–    Don’t feel like you have to hire or refer the seeker to others for employment.  You don’t have to solve their problem, just help them along their path.
–    Keep in touch so that if an opportunity pops up in the future, you can offer additional help.  Keep an eye out for educational and networking opportunities you can pass on to the seeker.

What advice would you give to professionals contemplating becoming involved with a professional association?

Choose the organization wisely.  Go to a few meetings and work the room.  Find a board member and ask for introductions.  Are these “your” people?  Can you learn from them?  Are there ways that you can contribute?  Did you have fun?

You have to give to the organization in order to benefit from the network.  Look for opportunities to contribute your time, expertise and energy.  The program/education/activities committee is a great place to start.  Look for the best way to meet the most people.  Be vulnerable and open to making new friends.  Go the extra mile to have substantive conversations with people and offer to help others and the organization whenever you can.

Be generous.

Consider a multi-year plan to increase your involvement, run for a board position and consider a regional or national committee or board position. At each level you will enrich your network and leadership opportunities, as well as have an opportunity to help others.

Don’t forget to bring your firm or company along for the ride.  Seek their support in your quest for networking and leadership development.  Bring back great ideas and share them with your company.  Bring members of your company’s leadership team along with you to appropriate programs or conferences and use the time with them to build your relationship and discuss each others vision for your company.

What point in your career did you become involved in professional associations and why?

I joined the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) as soon as I started at Kideney Architects as their first Marketing Director.  Frankly, I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing.  The local chapter gave me an opportunity to meet other marketing folks from architecture, engineering and construction companies.  I was fortunate to meet a number of veteran marketers who took me under their wing and let me drill them with questions.  They informally mentored and coached me over the years.

I attended local meetings and the national conferences. The education programming was very helpful to me as a young marketer. I joined the board in the second year of my career.  Our board meetings were frequently held in restaurants.  We would trade secrets over dinner, then conduct business afterwards.  The most valuable thing for me was learning how other people dealt with common issues.  After being on the board for a few years, I felt a need to give back, so I ran for President of the Upstate New York Chapter, which opened doors for networking and learning on a national level.

That was 1990.  I’ve been involved with either SMPS or the Legal Marketing Association ever since.

How have professional associations helped you in your career?

SMPS and LMA have been my main source of mentors and mentoring for 25 years.  I have been very fortunate to develop friendships with some of the kindest and smartest people in legal marketing and law firm management.  These role models have been generous in their advice, direction, encouragement and referrals.

Some time ago, I was at my wits end working for attorneys.  I was ready to either go back to marketing architecture/engineering or finding a new line of work.  I was fortunate to have a few close friends through the LMA with whom I could share my frustrations. They were generous in their support and advice, leading me to find a new CMO job with Holland & Hart in Denver, a job that I enjoyed for nearly nine years.  I am forever grateful for their help in getting through a difficult time.

In late 2008 when I left Holland & Hart to start my consultancy, it was my LMA network that helped me find some of my first clients and speaking gigs.  I would never have gotten Leadership for Lawyers off the ground without their support, confidence and connections.

Associations also give people an opportunity to build professional skills and credibility. I started speaking at association meetings in 2002.  I wasn’t very good at first, but over time I gained confidence and competence in designing substantive sessions and delivering them in an effective and entertaining manner.  Speaking is now an important part of my marketing mix and has helped me develop credibility as a consultant, trainer and coach.  I am now a professional member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), an association for professional speakers that has opened a whole new world of learning and networking.  BTW, Denver has a great chapter that offers world-class training for professional speakers.

Building a strong network is critical to success.  Not only do you know whom to call for help or advice, but you have an opportunity to help others as well.  In the 16 years I have been involved with the Legal Marketing Association, I have met some of the most creative, energetic, strong, resilient and brilliant professionals on the planet.  I look forward to seeing them at regional and national events to trade stories, learn from each other and hopefully helping each other.  The network has evolved to a very active online discussion forum on Facebook and LinkedIn – a place were we help and supports each other.

I have been consulting as a sole practitioner for five years.  Most of my work and inbound referrals come from contacts gained through the Legal Marketing Association and the Association of Legal Administrators.  I frequently speak and write to these audiences in order to keep my brand fresh and to expand my network among possible referral sources and clients throughout the country.

As a member of a professional association, how have you been involved? (volunteering, board of directors, committee, events, speaking, writing, etc.)

Professional associations are a great way to learn leadership, management and communication skills.  One of my earliest roles was doing PR for a professional association.  I had to learn how to write a press release, fax it to media outlets and follow up by phone.  Those activities introduced me to local and industry media contacts, which helped me with PR duties for my firm.

The same goes for management and leadership.  Getting involved with a professional association allows you opportunities for delegation, mentoring, creating vision, developing strategic plans and networking.

When I arrived in Denver as the new Marketing Director of Holland & Hart, one of the first things I did was to track down Lisa Simon, the local president of the Legal Marketing Association Chapter.  I went to a few meetings and then conspired with Chancey Green to be the program co-chair the following year.  It was great way to meet other marketers from other professional service firms and to benchmark my firm’s efforts with our competitors.  I learned a lot from my fellow marketers and developed strong friendships with many of them.

Over the years I served on the Rocky Mountain Chapter Board, including a stint as President.  This served as an entry to serve on the International Board and on several national committees including the Your Honor Award (National Award) Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and others.

After I stepped down from the National Board, I focused on speaking and writing on the topic of leadership to chapters and associations across North and Central America.

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The Process of Career Reinvention

Stuck?  Unemployed?  Ready to follow your passion?
Learn the process to transform your career: an interview with Linda Sollars

Linda Sollars, is President of Creating Purpose (www.creatingpurpose.com) and is one of Denver’s most well know job-seeking consultants. She will be leading the career reinvention seminar at next week’s AH Jobs List Reinvent Event which will be held on Wed., November 9 at the Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver.   Two of Linda’s clients who have successfully reinvented themselves will sit on a panel to discuss their career reinvention process.

Linda provides her inspiring, heartfelt and common-sense approach to job development and has transformed jobs seekers in defining their personal brand and aligning their strengths with a solid foundation of purpose, quality and success. She provides individual sessions and workshops designed to recognize core visions and values and to develop solid networking and job search strategies.

She spent 20 years in senior level marketing positions before transitioning into career coaching and consulting several years ago after discovering her purpose in empowering others. She has been a featured panelist on CBS, Channel 4, Beating the Recession, featured expert on ABC, Channel 9, Get Me A Job! and the national forum, Careerwell. She is also the keynote speaker at many conferences and events regionally and nationally.

Linda holds a master’s degree in Adult Development, with an emphasis in Leadership and Coaching, as well as an advanced certification from University of Denver in Training and Development.  She is also an Affiliate Professor at Regis University and is on the UCOL Alumni Board of the University of Denver.

Recently, I sat down with Linda to discuss the process she takes job seekers through and some of the common challenges as well as successful habits of professionals who have reinvented their careers.

Linda can you talk a bit about the career reinvention process you take job seekers through?

Most of my clients, when they first come to see me, are either stuck in a job they don’t like and want to get out of, are recently unemployed, or want to follow a passion and don’t know how. Most of the people who reach this stage simply don’t know what to do; they are stuck.

The first thing we work on is determining who they are before they decide what it us they want to be.

To do that, I take them through a very specific three step process.

First, we work on recognizing and owning their unique strengths and values.  How would they describe themselves?  What would their co-workers say about them?  What do they care about at their core?  I ask my clients to talk about the strengths that characterize who they are and also ask them to give specific examples of how they have used these strengths in the past.  We go through assessments and exercises I’ve designed in order to come up with a personal statement of strengths that teaches people how to talk about themselves in terms of WHO they are as opposed to their skill sets.

Second, we work on motivational style.  What gets them up in the morning?  What is it that sends them out there every day with aspirations to accomplish something and be successful?  How they motivate themselves is critical in determining the type of position that is successful and satisfying.

Third, we work on a process I call career design – a very specific, personal and powerful format that answers questions about what they want their ideal work situation to be.

We look at where you want to work, how far do you want to go, how much travel do you prefer, how much money do you want to make, what kinds of benefits do you expect, what kind of vacation schedule do you prefer, how many people do you want to work with, do you want to work from home?

Reinventing or transforming your career seems overwhelming.  How do you manage someone’s anxiety about reinvention?

So many of the people who begin this process with me have a feeling that the world is controlling them and when we break it down into these three manageable areas, it switches their view so they feel as if they can manage and are in control of their situation and their aspirations.

Going through this three-step process, which is a very personal, specific and a very thoughtful introspection, also provides the basis for developing a resume and their LinkedIn profile in a way that that communicates their strengths, their motivations, their skills and the type of work that will match their values and the values and culture of an organization.

We then take a look at different companies and organizations that fit their career design.  They have already decided whether their strengths and skill sets are going to work for a large or mid-size company, a start-up or perhaps they want to follow a career path in the nonprofit world.

At this point, they have a clear vision and mission that is now aligned with their strengths, their motivation and their career design, communicated on their resumes, their cover letter, their networking pieces, and it is much easier for them to discuss their goals and expectations with prospective employers, either in informational interviews or at actual job interviews.

As a matter of fact, I’ve had several clients who were offered positions during informational interviews because they were so clear about expressing who they were, what their motivation style was, what their skill set was and what it is that they were really passionate about.

When people want to transform a part of their lives – whether it be their health, their finances, or in this case, their career – there are certain habits, beliefs and regular routines they need to begin to follow.  What are the habits of those who successfully transform and reinvent their careers?

The first thing is passion.  You have to have a passionate belief that you WANT to change.

If people come to me and say, “Anything is better than what I’m doing now,” I’m very clear that this is not enough, because they will immediately fall into the next thing that comes up.

Second, they need to own their passion as a unique, personal specific goal.

Finally, they connect their passion, strengths, skills, and motivation with specific careers.

Some of the things that people develop, in terms of habits and patterns, are the specific outcomes they design; they work on a specific item each week that leads to an outcome so that there is a very real sense of progress.

I also tell people – because it can be overwhelming – that this is a process and there needs to be a focus on each step. Trying to progress too quickly will not lead them to where they want to be; there needs to be a real sense of focus, along with quality time and effort put into each step.

Ultimately, they replace bad habits or patterns with good ones.  Over time, they begin to realize not only what was causing them to freeze when asked the question, “Tell me about yourself,” but they are comfortable, confident and passionate in expressing their skill sets, what makes them unique, what motivates them and what specific strengths they bring to the table.

The last thing I work with people on is job descriptions.  Does the job description match my career design, my motivation style, my strengths and my career design?  If not, we move on to the next job description and that’s okay.  This reinvention is about matching their goals to positions that meet their expectations and no longer trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. When we find a job description that does match, I teach them how to break it down, line by line – so that they can respond to almost all of the things in the description that they have either done or have a passion for.

What’s one of the biggest challenges for job seekers?

The biggest challenge is working with individuals to understand their strengths and their motivation and then have to express these to someone else.   It’s about developing that clarity – the confidence – about who they are.

This is difficult for a lot of reasons.

Many people feel they have lost their edge.  They’ve been beaten down at their current job.  They’ve faced overwhelming rejection looking for a job.  Regaining confidence and self-esteem is a process.  For most people, talking confidently about themselves seems unnatural – we’re told from an early age not to brag.

As I tell people: strengths are like the color of your eyes.  When I say “I have brown eyes,” no one is going to argue with me that I have brown eyes.  When I say that “I’m creative,” I’m creative!  That’s part of the strengths I have had since a very young child.  I know how to do creative things well and that’s a strength I bring to the table.  It’s not bragging – it’s the confidence of knowing this is who I am!  You may have known it your whole life but not acknowledged it, but it is still who you are!  Once you understand this, and own it, the confidence flows.

Too often, we run into this “imposter syndrome” – this voice that is sitting on our shoulders telling us “What are you thinking?  You really don’t know what you are doing.” Or we convince ourselves that someone is going to come in and say “We really don’t want you here anymore.”   It forces us to constantly feel as if we are being judged by others expectations.

Once you know that your strengths are owned by you and they are not measured by anyone else – just like you eye color – then you get to a point where you don’t compete against this voice and it is actually replaced with that red-hot confidence and courage to make a change.

For many job seekers, starting in their mid-30s, they begin to reflect on their current job or career path and pangs of regret seep in.  There’s a sense that they are stuck in a job or a career path that doesn’t reflect who they really are or what it is they really want to be doing.  Do you see that?

I work with a lot of people who struggle with this; they absolutely don’t want to be doing what they are doing. They’ve spent so much time and money on their educations, they’ve been working successfully for a number of years and progressing their careers, are making good money and in everyone else’s eyes, they’ve reached their pinnacle.  But, they absolutely hate their jobs to the point, sometimes, that it is mentally paralyzing to go into work.

Often this is the result of not having acknowledged their passion.

They might have recognized their passion in college, but they focused on careers that their parents thought they ought to be doing, or a career they thought was going to make them money, help them become financially stable, pay off their student loans, raise a family and buy a new house, a car and take a vacation every once in a while.

It’s clear that their passion doesn’t lie with what they are doing and when I talk with them about their passion, they have very different ideas about what kind of work they’d prefer to be doing.  But it is also a very scary situation for them because change is always challenging.

How do you resolve this fear?  

It’s probably the number one thing I hear from folks who are frustrated with their current jobs.  Through the career design process, we try to answer all of the questions that help people to resolve these fears.

How much money do you need to make?  What expenses do you have?  What’s the work-life balance you are seeking?  What can happen if you are out of a job for 4 months?  We ask all of those questions in the very beginning to assist the reality of their personal reinvention.  Many people simply say they can’t give up their jobs, no matter how much they hate going to work each day.

I tell them their career does not have to be an “either/or” scenario.  This can be about “and/both” so they can stay in the position they are in and start looking at the options out there following their passion.  Is it going to take some time?  Yes.  Will it take 15 years?  No.  It’s going to a few months of working on the process during the time they have available – in the evenings and on weekends for example.  I would never tell someone to quit their job tomorrow to pursue their passion unless they could afford to do so and have given serious thought to how they can realistically make this work for them.

Read more about Linda Sollars at www.creatingpurpose.com

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Touch Points.

One of the most common strategies in successful branding is to develop a believable brand promise that creates a positive perception about a product in the eyes of the targeted audience the product seeks to influence. Through that perception, the brand will trigger a response from the targeted audience, which, if successful, will initiate a ‘trial’ of the product.

If, through the trial of the product, the product lives up to the brand promise that initially influenced the audience to action, then the audience will repeat their behavior and ultimately, if the product continues to deliver on its promise, will create the ultimate in branding success – brand loyalty.  

At each stage – trial, repeat and loyalty – there are specific marketing touch points the brand is using to connect to and influence its audience.

And as a ‘product’ in the marketplace of employment, we also have the power to create our own brand promise and influence the perception of ourselves in the eyes of a targeted audience – in the job seeker’s case, the audience being a potential employer.

The resume, the cover letter and the interview are the three most common touch point opportunities a job seeker has to influence an employer’s perception and opinion.  The job seeker wants to persuade the employer that they match the requirements of the job posting in every way – from the experience, the talents, the qualifications, the skills and expertise; and prove that they will add value to the company and to the department.

In most cases, it is not too difficult to interpret the job posting to determine the most essential requirements and skills the employer is searching for, but in each stage, it is up to the job seeker to connect their relevance to the job posting’s requirement.

The resume and the cover letter are the first touch points and it is up to the job seeker to make the connection from the job posting requirements to their ‘brand’ in order to influence an employer to contact them.

The interview is commonly the most difficult part for job seekers.  It is at this point where you must translate in a person-to-person conversation the elements of your ‘brand promise’ that came across in the resume and cover letter that influenced the employer to contact you (trial) for an interview.

While this is a simplified explanation of branding, job seekers need to think much the same way, because let’s face it, when you are looking for a job, you are the Chief Marketing Officer for yourself.

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Six tips from successful professionals on how to manage your career

I meet regularly with people who are looking for work.  I’ve met with hundreds of professionals who are either entry level job seekers or mid-level managers who are looking to progress their careers to the next level.   I meet with senior VPs who are unsatisfied with their jobs or are looking to transition to other industries.

Managing your career means constantly preparing yourself for the next path in your career journey.  From the moment you begin your career as an entry level employee it is important to constantly assess, anticipate and analyze your next move.   What are your career goals and how can you achieve them? 

Preparing yourself is not only to fulfill the desire to be promoted or to transition, but it is also a huge insurance policy in the event that you lose your job. 

Probably the most important question you need to ask yourself:  In the event you lost your job, are you prepared and positioned to begin looking for a new job?   Are you comfortable that you’d be pretty well established and connected in your industry or career sector to easily find a new job at the same responsibility and salary level?

Here are six tips that successful professionals use to manage their careers. 

1.) Understand the opportunities that will help you fulfill your current career goals.

One of the first things to consider when researching a potential employer are the opportunities for promotion; does this company have a record of hiring from within, from training, encouraging and actively working with their employees to progress upwards?  Also consider the department within the company.  Is it a small group that offers few opportunities?  If so, is it possible to transfer your skills through a promotion to another department?  It’s a legitimate and reasonable question to ask about promotion opportunities when you are being interviewed for a new position. 

It is also reasonable to ask the question about education reimbursement benefits.  Many companies will reimburse all or a portion of classes, seminars, association dues, professional development activities and other education and training opportunities.  Your increased education should be a consideration for future promotions as well.

2.) Network, network, network!!!  Get out from behind your desk.  Join a professional association, volunteer and participate in your industry and your community.

All too often, professionals who are laid off find themselves without a robust network of contacts to help them with their new job search.  In our goals to be successful at work, we often find ourselves spending every waking moment behind our desks missing terrific opportunities to network in any meaningful way with our industry peers and our community.  Our lack of connections can also add to a perceived lack of value. 

Creating a robust rolodex of friends, associates and connectors helps job seekers in many ways.

How do you get more connected in your community and in your industry?

PARTICIPATE! 

Join an association, your local chamber of commerce, rotary club or another community or business organization.  Serve on the boards of these organizations, adopt a project and put your skills to use.

In the same way, use your skills to assist a local nonprofit or at the least, take on a pro-bono project for a local charity.  Your expertise will be welcome to a local nonprofit who views you as a third-party expert that can assist them on a variety of levels.  In addition, many high-profile and powerful community and business leaders are involved in local charity work and it expands your connections.

Bottom line – here’s what networking does:

  • Helps you to connect and meet peers, associates and movers and shakers.
  • Folks get to meet you face-to-face.
  • It helps you get noticed and gives your name familiarity in your profession.
  • It teaches you about different industries and organizations and new aspects of your chosen profession.
  • It helps you find different business opportunities for your current job.
  • It gives you speaking opportunities to show off your talents and skills.
  • It gives you new information about new trends in your chosen field.
  • You can become an expert in a different area.

3.) Always return phone calls and emails. 

There’s nothing more deafening than the sound of silence when, in your desperation to find a job, your phone calls are not returned or your emails go unanswered.

I know we all get consumed with the day-to-day stress of hundreds of emails, phone calls, etc., but everyone needs a system to return messages.  I try, at least 3 times per-week to designate at least 1.5 hours to go through my email box and my voicemail and return emails and phone calls. 

I’m not always perfect, but I had an employee who just figured it wasn’t necessary.  I’d get complaints from CEO’s of major company partners complaining that they were unable to reach this colleague!  Not even an acknowledgement or referring on a request or message to an underling to return.  Nothing!

It makes it very difficult when you are suddenly in a position of needing assistance and scratching your head as to why you are not taken seriously.

4.) Always promote your successes.  There’s no such thing as modesty when your hard work has created something noteworthy.

When you achieve something that is notable, it is critical to promote that achievement.  For example, most major professional associations have annual awards to recognize significant achievements.  Participating in these awards competitions, helps to create awareness amongst your peers, and it also adds another highlight to your resume/portfolio.

In addition, when a significant achievement is notable, promote it locally to your local business section or business publication and to national trade and industry media.  Your achievement can most likely be noted as trendsetting and your reputation for creativity will be noticed.

5.) Keep a regularly updated ‘career journal’.

In this journal, constantly keep notes of different skills and levels of expertise that you are utilizing in your job. 

Constantly keep notes on the major projects that you are involved and describe the four levels of a project’s success – development, strategy, execution and results.  This type of discipline will help you to think and analyze how your skills and talents are developing.  More importantly, you’ll be able to discuss in greater detail with future employers the level of energy and talent that it required to achieve success in your career.

6.) ALWAYS keep your resume and portfolio updated. 

Spend a dedicated amount of time each month reviewing your resume.  Keep a file that you can keep store your work product for your portfolio.  This is an important exercise that will benefit you in so many different ways now and in the future.

A resume is an important tool for your job search and you need to keep it current and make sure that you are revising it to match your skills and your career goals.  In addition, a robust portfolio of your work product will help you promote your career and makes sure that if you are laid off, you access to your work product.

There are a massive amount of websites and books that can help you best set up the ‘perfect’ resume and portfolio.  Take advantage of the advice and guidance that is currently available.

Bottom Line:

It’s human nature to reach a comfort level when you are in a job that seems to be stable.  However, its also human nature to want to progress, constantly learn and succeed in our professional lives.

Much like an insurance policy or a 401k, we need to constantly manage and invest in our careers through networking, promoting ourselves and keeping our resumes and portfolios up-to-date.

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What we wish we knew at graduation…10 pieces of advice to college grads

It’s college graduation season and as a result, there’s a lot of new entry-level job seekers entering the job search market right now.

When I graduated from the University of Colorado in 1989, I saw the President of the University of Colorado at my graduation and walked up to him.  “President Gee,” I said.  “What’s the best piece of advice you can give a new college graduate with a degree in English Literature?”  He looked down at me, smiled and said.  “Never, never, ever forget to pay your alumni dues.”  This deflating piece of advice was exactly what I didn’t want and need to hear.

In any event, without sounding like a cliché graduation commencement lecture, I’ve solicited practical advice from my thousands of friends on Facebook and Twitter.

I asked a simple question:

“If you could offer one piece of advice to a recent college graduate what would it be and what do you know now that you wish you knew when you graduated from college?”

I’ve condensed the hundreds of answers I received into some general themes and transfer this advice in the spirit of mature wisdom in which it is intended.

1.)  Debt is a soul-sucker.

Live within your means and avoid the debt trap like the plague.

Right now, as a recent college graduate, you have amazing ambitions, goals and hopes for the future – don’t let those be derailed because of unnecessary debt.

All too often, I’ve met with professionals who, now in their 40’s and 50’s, are slaves to the debt trap that controls every aspect of their lives: they are in jobs they don’t like, stressful marriages, living paycheck-to-paycheck with no savings for their kid’s college education as well as their own retirement – all because of the enormous debt they began racking up early in life.

There is NO SUCH THING as FREE MONEY! Avoid the temptations of the credit marketing hucksters who are pitching easy money with credit cards offers, department store lines of credit, banks, automobiles – there’s endless ways to get handcuffed to debt for the rest of your life.

Get a credit card to establish credit, but avoid the high interest-rate and pay it off each month.   Finance problems and debt are cited as one of the top reasons for divorce.  If you are getting married, from the get-go, have honest and open conversations about finances and try your best to pay off student loans and any other debt you may have each incurred.  Work with a financial planner early in your marriage so that you can map your goals as a married couple.  Save and invest but avoid the financial slavery of debt.

2.)  Travel while you are in your 20’s.

Save up and visit new countries when you have minimal commitments.   Study abroad, intern overseas, volunteer or consider working for a non-profit or a non-governmental organization (NGO) in another country or get an advanced degree abroad.

Being able to travel not only is fun, but can be a time of self reflection after your hard work in college and give you new insights into your career and life goals.  Your experiences can be a real differentiator in job hunts.   There are plenty of resources available that can lead you to work abroad opportunities and help you be able to travel affordably.

3.)  Be a life-long student.

Just because you have a college degree doesn’t mean you should stop learning.  Be infinitely curious about all things.  Continue to learn and master new skills and open your mind to different cultures, political opinions and new ideas.  You are going into a workforce that requires you to interact with a wide range of ages, work ethics, business atmospheres, personalities and diverse opinions that you may not have experienced before.  At the end of every day, ask the same question your parents asked at the dinner table after school: “What did you learn today?”

4.) Your first job is going to be a learning experience.

Don’t be afraid to start at the very bottom.  Paying your dues means proving yourself – proving that you don’t feel entitled and that no job is below you, proving that you have the heart, the passion and drive to always find a way to get the job done, under any circumstance, proving that you will work long hours and on weekends, and proving that you will always be reliable and true to your word.

5.)  You will fail at something sometime.

John Elway threw way more interceptions than he did touchdowns.   Every successful person is also an expert at failing.  Like them, prepare to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

6.) Be ethical, honest and confident about your integrity.

You will be faced at times during your career when a decision you have to make or a situation you are in will seem to test your character and integrity.   If you are confident in your character and integrity, these situations will never be considered a ‘judgment call.’  You are ethical and honest or you are not.  It is that simple.

7.) Happiness is many things, but it is not about money.

Don’t believe the marketing hype: happiness is NEVER found in how much money you have, how big your house is, what type of car you drive, what type of title or power you hold, the types of clothes you wear or how attractive you (or others) believe yourself to be.

Typically happiness in life is found in deep and meaningful relationships with your family and friends, being satisfied and enjoying your work, enjoying good health, having self confidence and enjoying freedom and independence from financial debt.  Most importantly, it’s found in constantly recognizing and acknowledging the things in your life that present you with joy.

8.) Become an inspirational leader.

We need more leaders in the world.   Volunteer for leadership positions whenever you get the chance.  Try to become a supervisor or a manager.  Join a nonprofit board, or volunteer for a leadership position through a professional industry association.

9.) Be passionate and committed to being the best at everything you do!

Believe in yourself, in your goals and ideas and learn how to manage people and resources wisely and fairly.   Always have a vision for the future, but more than just having a vision, learn how to inspire others to believe and help you to implement and manage your vision.

10.) Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do right now.

Expect that your life will take many twists and turns.

When asked about their current jobs, most seasoned professionals start out by saying, “If you’d have told me when I graduated from college that I’d be doing what I’m doing for a career today, I’d have thought you were crazy!”

The fact is your niche will most likely not be what you expect it to be today.  You will discover skills in your first job out of college that you didn’t realize you possessed.  You will recognize interests that will help you focus on your future goals.  Your will find a career that will fit you – your talents, your personality, your experiences Expect your life’s mission and your professional goals to become more clear over the next few years.

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