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6 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier In My Career

Crystal Tse

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Crystal is an ex-Telecoms engineer who shares a few lessons she’s learned in her early career. Below are six things you should be aware of before kick-starting your career in tech.

1. You have to network and build career relationships

I used to think that networking was swapping business cards and promoting myself to as many people as possible. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s talking to people as if they are human, finding common ground and discovering, over time, how you can both build a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Then there’s networking outside your company. Doing so provides you with different insights to work, industry, and tech beyond the “official channels” you’re used to.

As a woman in tech, it’s paramount that you build your tribe; a trusted network of peers who you can go to for feedback, advice, and support and who gets what it’s like to work in male-dominated industries.

Meetup.com and Eventbrite are powerful resources for finding your tribe and networking with others in your industry and beyond.

2. Learning is lifelong

A career in tech means there will always be something new to learn. If you want to thrive, stay on top of the changes in the ever-evolving field. Learning is not just about collecting certificates; it’s a cycle of learn → apply → ask for help, repeat. 

The best learning comes from mentors: people that have achieved similar goals as yours and can show you the way. And when it comes to mentors, why just have one? They could be public figures you follow, people you know, and folks you have an informal or formal mentor/mentee relationship with. The only rule is, to be honest with your hands-on mentors and to take action when you say you will. There’s nothing more demoralizing for a mentor whose mentee doesn’t take action. 

If mentoring is done right it will leave you, the mentee, wanting to pay it forward where you turn into the mentor.

3. You need goals in your life but don’t let them blind you to potential opportunities: learn to pivot

Goal setting is often helpful in your career but they can sometimes act as blinders. You can’t see other opportunities because you’re so focused on hitting that goal. 

The thing is, life happens and priorities change. The goals you had when you were 20 will be different by the time you hit 30, then change again at 40, then at 50. The trick is noticing when your priorities change and accepting that your career goals will change. This is going to happen even more when your network; new opportunities will come along that are too good to miss. 

Treat goals as a compass rather than a destination and apply your curious mindset here too. When you start the journey you’ll want to take detours that’ll take you places you didn’t know existed but want to explore.

Bonus tip: Goals are your values in tangible form. If you have a tricky decision to make, like going for a promotion or going for a new job, it might be time to ask yourself, how does this decision serve my goals and values?

4. Don’t wait for career opportunities to present themselves, you have to go and find them.

Waiting for opportunities is like expecting “the one” to turn up at your door without you doing anything. This is where your network comes in and why it’s important to build and maintain your network before you need it.

When an opportunity does come along, trust that your skills and experience are enough to go for it because you did lessons 2 and 3, right? The right opportunity should move you forward towards your goals and is aligned with your values, not keep you in your comfort zone. Trust this process.

5. Mistaking feedback for validation

Receiving feedback can be excruciating to hear if you listen with the expectation of being judged. Genuine constructive feedback is about helping you to improve how you do things and are not about your character. 

Instead, try listening to feedback with the questions: 

  • What is the intention of the person giving the feedback? 
  • Do you trust them regardless of whether you like them or not? 

These 2 questions will help you work out fairly quickly who you should listen to and who to ignore.

6. Comparisonitis/imposter syndrome is a fast path to demotivation.

“I don’t have as much experience as them so that means my opinion isn’t as valid.”

“I started coding later than my peers and I think that my technical knowledge isn’t as good as theirs.”

“I need to feel like an expert in my field to give me confidence that I can do my job.”

“I got my job because the interview/test was easy.”

All these thoughts about where you are lacking puts extra pressure on you to perform to an unrealistic expectation and reinforces that knowledge = capable. When in reality you need a number of factors to show you are capable:

  • Can you work with other people?
  • Can you communicate clearly?
  • Do you have initiative proportional to what is being asked of you or is needed?
  • Do you have enough knowledge to do your day to day tasks?
  • Are you open to learning? Especially from your mistakes?
  • How do you receive feedback, the good and the bad?

This is where your tribe comes in, to help you check in with reality and remind you of your achievements. 

Here’s another way to look at it:
Imposter Syndrome concept, Career

I would love to give credit to whoever came up with this, I think it’s genius.

Bonus tip: keep a diary of your achievements that you are proud of. If imposter syndrome hits, get that diary out and bask in your achievements.

You can follow Crystal on Linkedin .

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