When I look back, I am grateful for my personal and professional achievements. My parents, who were not wealthy and who started to work when they were 14 and 16, always did their utmost to provide me with the best education there was, and taught me to work hard, to make sure I could take care of myself, no matter what the circumstances would be. They always listened and supported me to the best of their abilities. However, I never really had anyone around with some ‘business knowledge’ who I could speak to, to ask for advice, guidance, or to brainstorm my ideas. So since you cannot turn back time, I decided to write to my younger self, to mention all the things I wish someone had told me when I was in my twenties…
- Think carefully about your first job. When you finish your studies and look for your first job, try to find a job that you want, in an industry that you like or that you’d like to learn more of. I know in certain countries/places in the world, young people do not often have the luxury to choose between jobs and sometimes, when they get one, they’re so happy that they jump onto an opportunity, without really thinking ‘is it really the job I want to do / the company I want to work for?’ If you do have to take a job that you’re not really sure of, make sure that you give yourself 3 to 6 months to see whether this is the right ‘starting point’, or if you should start looking for another job that will meet your requirements. This step is crucial, as it will often define the direction you’re going to go.
- Find a mentor, someone who has the experience and/or skills in areas you’d like to learn/improve. This person will guide you, will challenge you, will ask you questions you did not think of, and will help you see things from different perspectives. You’ll also learn certain tips and tricks quicker, which will give you an edge above other people in the same situation as you. This mentor may be a colleague, but it could also be a family member, a friend, or a neighbour who could act as an objective soundboard.
- Have a long-term goal in mind. I often say ‘things happen for a reason’. When you have a goal in mind, things will definitely happen. It may take months or years before they happen, but when they do, you’ll recognize the signs and you’ll jump on the opportunity, getting you closer to where you want to be. If you do not have a specific long-term goal in mind, you may want to try the following: I sometimes challenge myself with the following questions: ‘Imagine you’re 80, and you look back at your life and what you achieved: what would you like to see? What would you like to be proud of?’ These are difficult questions to which you may not have a straight answer yet. However, doing this exercise will help you break down your goal and the different steps you need to take to achieve them.
- Never give up. Life is full of surprises, good and bad. It throws at you lots of challenges, professionally and personally, Even if it’s tough to deal with these challenges (and to make things worse, they often come at the same time), do not give up. It’s not the challenges that define you, it’s how you react to them. We have all been there, thinking it’s never going to end. But try to stay positive: do whatever you can to make things better and you’ll see, things will get better. Remember: when something is not going as planned, you never lose: you either win or you learn.
- It’s not all about motivation. I was often told that I was ‘lucky’: lucky to have a nice job, a nice car, a nice house, etc. People are quick to criticize, they often only see the tip of the iceberg but do not see what’s happening below. It takes lots of hard work, motivation, and dedication to achieve your goals, but none of it would be possible without one thing: discipline. We’re all motivated to do a good job, to stay healthy, etc. However, it’s the things you do day after day, that will make you achieve what you want in life, that will make you reach your goals and help you get to the next level.