Aside from Hurricane Irene, August of 2011 was just an ordinary month capping off an otherwise ordinary New England summer.
Little did I know, it was the last month in which I had full control over my career.
Living in the suburbs midway between Boston and Providence, I visited my job’s home office in Southern California quite often. For three years I flew out every other month, and for me – it was the perfect setup.
Being the lone guy on the East Coast meant that I’d often get a jump on the day. The work? Amazing. There was always something new to do, a new person to meet, a new project to tackle, and new challenges to overcome.
And best of all, I was working for two of the most successful people I had ever known…
And it all simply clicked for us.
The details were quite simple. We were kicking ass and taking names. We had gotten the company to a true tipping point, and it was time for me to go all in. Time to pack it up and make the move some 3,000 miles across the country to continue building our dream…
And then it happened.
I fucking quit.
I let myself down. I backed out from the commitments I had made to the best employers I had ever known. And in that moment, less than two years ago, I felt like I had ruined my career.
In the two years since, I’ve worked for three separate companies, holding five different positions. Jumping from job to job, opportunity to opportunity, I’ve learned some hard lessons learned along the way, including…
- Proven Skill Can Trump Education
While the economy is rebounding a bit and the job market has improved, employers are still after proven talent. If you’re looking at career opportunities, you’re almost guaranteed to see an employer state that a bachelors in this or a masters in that are required degrees.Only, they’re not.
Real world experience and failed coursework in the school or hard knocks is far more valuable than an MBA from the latest online college or university.
At the very least, if you see a solid opportunity that you know you would be a good fit for — pursue it. Aggressively. You’ll often find that many of those required credentials are nothing more than lines from a job description template.
- Identifying Problems Isn’t Enough
Problem solving skills are no joke. When you’re experienced, it’s easy to spot problems because you can just tell that something isn’t right. At these moments your experience will help you to articulate all of the ways in which something is fundamentally wrong.That’s great, but one hard lesson I’ve learned (and continue to struggle with) is that if identifying problems is good, solving problems is way, way better.
If you’re solving problems, you’re likely investing yourself in becoming part of the solution. That leads to far more stability in your role, more confidence in the organization, and more opportunities for you to grow towards becoming indispensable.
- Time Isn’t On Your Side
At 33 years old, I’m a dinosaur. I’ve watched kids come into the search marketing industry and simply dominate from the word, “go” time and time again… And that’s not about to change.The simple fact is, I’m not getting any younger. None of us are.
Young adults are learning more in a faster paced environment and are finding ways to excel at the same things that have taken me years to figure out.
Technology, the same element that I’ve built my career on, is both a blessing and a curse.
I’ve found that there is a point – and I only know of it because it’s firmly in the rear view mirror for me – that youth is no longer a weapon in your arsenal. Leverage your experience, but relax a bit with your ego… There are plenty of young professionals out there who can run laps around you.
- Your Core Values are Invaluable
It’s really easy to take a job when the salary looks good. It’s even easier when the money, commute and healthcare benefits all magically add up for the killer compensation package.But once you’ve budgeted that new paycheck and have settled into your commute, it all fades away. Stress can and will mount up. People can wear on your nerves. Your dream job suddenly feels much more like work – particularly if you’re not doing something you truly love to do.
No amount of money can provide you with a true, deep sense of happiness or enjoyment unless you’re settled in your work.
Trust your instincts – and don’t be so quick to take that offer if things don’t completely feel right.
- Pain is Temporary; Quitting is Forever
The hardest lesson of all is one that I’ve known and felt before, all too well. I’m not one to throw around Lance Armstrong quotes all day, but this one is a powerfully true statement…Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.
If you’re in a position that you don’t enjoy – make sure you see it through to a point that you’re truly at peace with.
Quitting too early, especially when it feels easy, is unacceptable. You may not feel it immediately, but you will in time.
And when you do, you’ll know that there’s no turning back.