Career Lessons from Our Community to Yours

Spring is in the air, which means graduation season is quickly approaching, and students are preparing to enter the workforce full-time. Whether you’re looking for a summer job or are entering your first career role, there are many learning opportunities on the road ahead. To ease your career transition, we’re sharing some important career lessons from our community to yours.

The career lessons below range from advice shared by managers, like the advice Career Cooperative Founding Partner, Dana, received to never present a problem without having thought through a solution yourself, even if it’s wrong; or through watching someone you respect like Career Cooperative Founding Partner, Jenna’s observations of a mentor’s professional and thoughtful communication style; or just by learning what not to do through mistakes and failures. These early career lessons have shaped a myriad of successful, evolving careers, and we hope that they will be just as impactful for you!

Take initiative in your role.
Alla Mezhvinsky - People Operations Leader
Early on I learned that career progression is not something that only your manager controls. A good manager will help you get there, but you own it yourself! You have to work hard, ask to take on more and seek out opportunities. I also learned to be open minded and try things that may not always fit within the role you are in. For better or worse, you’ll learn something new!

Know your worth.
Bret Turner, Educator
The biggest lesson I learned from my first full-time job was something that happened right off the bat: don't sell myself short, even when I don't know exactly what I'm good at yet. I had been out of college for a few months and my post-graduation job search was dragging on longer than I'd hoped. So when I was granted an interview to do data entry at a nearby law firm, I told myself I'd do anything to get the job. I realized later that I clearly should have asked for more money, and likely they'd have paid me more; at the time, though, I just didn't know how any of that worked.

Build bridges with kindness.
Brian Westlake, Account Executive - Strategic Accounts
I think the biggest learning lesson from my first job I still use every day is you can get more done with kindness and empathy. Learning to work productively with others and get people to help you starts with a base level of mutual respect. Occasionally people might lose your trust or respect over time but I believe you should start out by giving your co-workers the benefit of the doubt that they are there to work hard and do good. Especially in a work environment, I don't believe that everyone should have to earn that base level of respect. You have to believe that everyone is there with good intentions and if you start from there, people are generally happy to work hard with and for you. This doesn't mean as a manager or co-worker you can't set firm boundaries and expectations it just means that for the long-term happiness of yourself and teammates start with kindness.

Take pride in your work.
Dyanna Quizon, Government Affairs Manager
My first job was as an Administrative Assistant for Consumer Credit Counseling Services of San Francisco. The non-profit counseled clients on debt management and housing. The most important professional lesson I learned was the importance of taking pride in your work - no matter what that may entail. Although I was doing basic database entry and filing, I tried to do my best no matter how menial the task. This helped develop my reputation of being a dependable and quick worker, which allowed me to use my workplace as a reference for future jobs.

Look at the bigger picture
Dynasti Hunt, VP Talent
The most important lesson I learned was to be a sponge and learn about all of the departments, not just the one you're working in! I was taught by a mentor to be invested in the entire business and spent time coming in early, staying later, and strategically learning more about other jobs that were not my own so that I could speak to the business overall better. Less than a year in, I was tapped to lead a role in a completely different area - all by the simple fact that I had shown I could be versatile in how and where my skills were applied. It definitely set my career trajectory up in a way that I am forever thankful for. Side note: I also recommend reading The First 90 Days. I read it with every new job or role I take and its foundation has been useful to me and so many others that I recommend read it.

Approach work with confidence.
Haley Garrison, Marketing Professional·
Early on in my career, I learned not to confine myself to being an intern, or a student, or an entry level employee. My first manager had confidence in my skills and abilities, and I realized I just needed to have that same confidence in myself. My manager didn’t care about my title, age or career stage. They cared about my knowledge, thought process and rationale. I was encouraged to bring my creative ideas to the table. Of course, I learned to have confidence with respect and thoughtfulness. After all, you can display humility while instilling confidence at the same time. This really took my career to the next level because I started contributing, helping, and doing without thinking twice about the constraints, borders or limitations of my title or age.

You will make mistakes, learn from them.
Hector Selberis, Enterprise Account Executive
Work hard, be positive and learn from your mistakes. You will make them and it's totally fine. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Lastly, make it a point to read and learn about your industry (e.g. sales books, blogs and podcasts for Salespeople).

Find a manager you connect with.
Jay Wong, Operations Executive
I had a chance to work on many different projects in my first job, each with different Managers.  I learned that who you work for has an enormous impact on your career success and, more importantly, your own happiness within the job. You could have your dream role in the company you want to work for, and if your manager is not supportive of you or your goals it will change your own career trajectory, passion and direction. You will quickly know whether your Manager is setting you up for success.  It is also very nuanced and no one answer fits all. Different people will gravitate toward different working styles and you should find the one that jives with you the best.

Create boundaries, and trust your gut
Mona Khalil, Author of I Write Letters in My Thoughts, @itsmonakhalil
I've been working since I was 16 years old, but consider my first job out of college "my first job." As a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco serving in Youth and Community Development, I learned that you have to remove yourself from uncomfortable situations in the workplace. Whether it be with a manager, colleague, or someone you are providing a service to. I've had to create boundaries in all three scenarios in various academic and professional work spaces. What I’ve found is that I am at my best in environments that allow me to focus on my vision and work with collaborative colleagues.

Our last career lesson is one shared by many in our community and is pretty universal to any point in your career.

 Be Open to New Things.
Kaylan Segev, Creative Communications Consultant
Be open to new things. This practice has encouraged me to always be thinking about how I'm growing and adding meaningful experiences that keep me connected to my work. When you embrace new opportunities your mind expands and you'll be forced to evolve personally and professionally. It's not always pretty, and it might not make sense in the moment, but trust that your future self will be glad you said 'Yes'.

Thank you to our community who contributed their stories to this piece!