Letter to a Youngbuck: Career
I hope you don’t mind that I pass on a few words of career advice. Whether you’ve been working for a while or just started, I want to make sure that you approach it with the right frame of mind.
- Work will always be there
- Good work speaks for itself, but it doesn’t hurt to have allies
- Don’t say no to opportunities, say yes and ask for help
- Delegate or defer anything that is not in your critical path
- You should always treat people and be treated like a person
- Work hard and work smart
- Be clear, think clearer, execute clearest
Work will always be there
Why wouldn’t it be? Sometimes we feel like the captain going down with the ship, and sometimes we feel like Atlas holding up the world. Work will survive without you. You are not the only one they depend on and it wouldn’t be fair to your company or you to be the only one driving success. Take time away from work and take a deep breath. You will survive. Your company will survive. Your work, the most durable of all, will survive.
Good work speaks for itself, but it doesn’t hurt to have allies
Do good work, always. Know when to put in A+ effort and when to put in B+ effort, but never do something that you wouldn’t be proud of. Work hard and make sure that it matters and pushes the needle. And make sure people are aware of your contributions. That’s not to say that you should run around flaunting everything you do, but know that the high value issues are ones that will have their share of eyes watching. Do good work and make sure your peers, stakeholders, and coworkers become your allies. They come in handy when work or life situations spiral out of your control, and they’ll do that from time to time.
Don’t say no to opportunities, say yes and ask for help
When you are challenged, don’t run away. Ask for help, ask for guidance, but don’t run away. We face our problems and they become springboards for your career and your battlescars. This is how legends are made.
Delegate or defer anything that is not in your critical path
On the other hand, if the opportunity has nothing to do with your career path or interests, don’t be afraid to say no. Do what YOU want to do. If there is work that remains to be done, try to delegate or find another champion to pick up the work for you. If there is no one else and you’re stuck taking the short end of the stick, make sure you do the work well so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you. Make clear boundaries and if you keep on getting the short end of the stick, I suggest changing companies.
You should always treat people and be treated like a person
People are always first, at the end of the day. Remember tip #1? Work will always be there, but people won’t be. Treat others good and you’ll be doing them a world of good. And if you are ever treated less than you deserve, make sure you actually don’t deserve that treatment. If you’ve exhausted all ideas and your peers cannot give you any advice on handling the situation better, move on. If not, work hard to make sure you’ve done the best you can to be the kindest and fairest person to others.
Work hard and work smart
Work hard. There’s no substitution for going harder, stronger, and faster than others. However, there’s no point doing any of that if you’re headed in the wrong direction. Decide where you want to go and align all your goals, thoughts, and energies towards achieving it. No one can stop you from doing what you want if you try harder than everyone else.
Be clear, think clearer, execute clearest
People get confused a lot. And often. Pretty much always. Do your best to stem the tide by communicating extremely clearly. To do that, you need to think clearly. As an exercise, if you have trouble explaining a computer science term or a problem to someone else, it likely means that you don’t understand it well. Dig deeper until you’re able to make the correct analogies. This is a sign of mastery.
Finally, once you have a clear idea, communicated it, make sure to follow through on it. Most things in life are simpler than they seem. Humans just have a tendency to make them 100% more complicated than necessary.
JP, it’s your birthday tomorrow. I hope you continue to grow up and be the stellar young person I see in you today. I love you, and take care. Kick some butt and take names, and I hope you’ll live a virtuous and happy life.
God bless you.