Welcome to a talk about people, careers, and the lies that just won’t die in school.
This mini-workshop intends to break some myths about early-career job hunts, and show you things you can do now, while a student, to make your life easier and better for the rest of your career. As the saying goes: what got you here will not get you there.
This page contains resources to go along with the talk and activities. There’s also a copy of the slide deck embedded at the bottom of this page, for later reference or to help you follow along on your own device.
Clifton Strengths Assessment is most easily accessed by buying a new copy of the book Strengths Based Leadership
Farnam Street: a site dedicated to learning and developing mental models to improve our thinking; they have an incredible (but pricey) learning community where people connect to talk about these sorts of topics every day
Atomic Habits by James clear: a fantastic book about how to actually get the habits and performance you want, rather than foolishly counting on willpower or just beating yourself up over it
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport: makes the case for building your passion rather than finding it, and other incredibly important keys to building a successful and rewarding career…like why S.M.A.R.T. goals are stupid
Career Tools Podcast by Manager Tools: this is a great series with sound advice for early-mid career professionals from the same people who are advising management and senior execs
The Daily Stoic: a website, books, and other resources making the age-old philosophy of Stoicism more accessible to a modern audience. If you don’t want to go learn classical Latin or deeply study philosophy, but you want to know how stunningly successful people’s minds work, this is for you.
How To Win Friends and Influence People is the classic work on interacting with people better.
Getting Things Done is the classic book on organizing your life and your work. I don’t know anyone who follows this system exactly today, but it’s a sort of a learning phase everyone goes through that teaches important concepts.
Bullet Journal is a site that teaches an organizational system you can do with any notebook. They sell notebooks and books, but the site gives away the “secret sauce” of the system for free. Use it!
The CEO Next Door is a personal favorite of mine. It helped me get past some of my mid-career poor kid hangups, the things that stem from moving into management and becoming a CISO without really having any context for what executives are like, because I didn’t grow up around any. While this was written for people moving into executive roles, if you came from a poor or blue-collar world and you’re having trouble understanding what senior white-collar workers are looking for or they seem like unpredictable aliens, read it anyway and get a handle on how people in those roles need to function to do their jobs well, and then you can understand them better.
What Color Is Your Parachute? is a book I haven’t read yet, but which was recommended to me by a trusted colleague as a must-read on ensuring that you build your career in a way that always leaves you with options. That’s a worthy goal in our ever-changing economy! Make sure you get a current edition, as this book is re-issued regularly.
Mindset: the new psychology of success is the book that coined the term “growth mindset”. If you don’t know what it is or don’t know why you need it, read this book.
Not all of these will be right for everyone, but if you’re struggling with where to start to improve yourself and your professional network, choose something off this list that sounds good to you and give it a try for 6-12 weeks to see what you learn.
Time block. Review your schedule weekly, about two weeks in advance, and schedule appointments with yourself for focusing on your priorities. Just because you aren’t meeting another person or going somewhere, that doesn’t mean you can’t block out your calendar. “Work on quarterly report”, “read”, “triage new bug reports”, etc. are all going to get done better if you block out time for deep work than if you try to get them done by squeezing them between meetings and other demand for your time.
Eat the frog. There’s an old Mark Twain quote, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, then nothing worse will happen to you all day.”. Try starting the day with the thing you least want to do, the hard thing or the thing you’ve been wanting to avoid. Get it over with, then start the rest of the day feeling lighter.
Make a keep-alive list. Make a list of 30 people worth keeping in touch with. Each day, pick one, drop them a quick email, give them a call, stop for a coffee, whatever works. Maybe it’s just to share an article you think they will find interesting, or to ask how they are doing. Then, start over next month.
Find a peer coach. One way to get a bit better at things while building a long-lasting relationship is to find a peer coach. This is someone who is good for you and growth minded, but outside your chain of command at work. Someone who thinks differently than you in some way is best. Get a face-to-face or Zoom chat regularly (some people do weekly, others monthly) to check in and bounce ideas and problems off of one another. Practice asking questions and prompting thought rather than trying to become fixers for one another. It’s a great way to practice coaching skills you’ll need when you mentor, get an outside point of view, get some coaching, build a relationship, and so much more.
Practice giving talks. In class, outside of class, at local meetups, anywhere… the more talks you give, the more practiced you will be. Look for local meetups and other small events where you could give a talk and volunteer. You don’t have to be an expert to give a good talk, a beginner’s perspective can be useful, too.
Ask “what can I help you with?”. When you talk to someone who’s an important relationship with you, ask “what can I help you with?” and mean it. Lending a hand is a great way to build trust and prove your worth.
Improve your penmanship. Written notes help us connect ideas, and written communication helps people feel connected and valued. Find the book Write Now by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay, and use it to improve your penmanship. With good penmanship you’ll be more effective at note-taking and more confident dropping a handwritten note to someone you know.
Read or listen an hour per day. Dedicate an hour per day to books, articles, podcasts, and audiobooks to help you up your game at whatever matters to you most right now.
Reflect regularly. Build a daily or weekly reflection habit: set aside a time to look back at what you’ve done, what’s worked, what hasn’t, what you want to change, improve, keep doing, or do next.
Track your sleep. There are many sleep tracking tools out there – I like Sleep as Android – that can give you insight into how much and how well you are sleeping. Fixing even mild sleep deficits can give you a huge performance boost while also making you less stressed and more pleasant to be around! Track for a bit and look for improvements that will suit you personally to improve the quantity and/or quality of your sleep.