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Early career advice

Notebook ๐Ÿ“ Feb 18, 2022

Some advice from me which may sound basic but (in my opinion) will be more important than anything else you hear early in your career journey.

This is the advice I typically give to people aspiring to break into law, consulting and similar fields. I actually copied it almost entirely from a message I've previously sent, with a few small tweaks and links to further reading.

Brush up on your commercial awareness. Know whatโ€™s going on in politics, commerce and technology, and how these fields affect each other. Think about issues on the horizon and have your own opinion about why they matter and how things might be improved/resolved. The easiest way to form unique opinions is combining thoughts from 2+ experts and identifying where you agree and disagree.

Second thing. However much you know, be confident in that. Donโ€™t be afraid to acknowledge whatโ€™s outside your โ€˜circle of competenceโ€™, but you can make intelligent inferences about what you donโ€™t know based on what you do know.

Third thing. Be confident. Know your story and your skills. Think about the things you are top quartile at, even If theyโ€™re non-traditional, and lean into them. Whatever it is that you're slightly better at than everyone else. If it's not what they think they're looking for then think about how your unique skills add value. Don't be afraid to reframe expectations. Make people judge you on your own terms instead of the same measuring stick they use for everyone else. Different is better than better (unless youโ€™re the best).

Your job is to believe youโ€™re brilliant, understand why, and be able to convincingly exhibit it so others believe it too.

One of the best skills you can develop in your career is asking deep, incisive questions. Asking why 5 times. Thinking from first principles and noticing where youโ€™re making assumptions. This will improve your pattern recognition and decision making.

I write a tonne at The Knowledge which you might find useful. Nothing industry specific - just general insights for navigating life and careers. I also wrote about my early career experiences in 51: A moment of honesty and 52: Learn to tread water.

P.S.

Be brief and concise. Communicate as much as possible in as few words as possible. This applies equally to speaking and writing.

Thatโ€™s essentially the same advice I got from a senior associate about a decade ago and it served me well ๐Ÿ˜Š

Good luck!

You should probably know

  • I'm planning to hold semi-regular workshops for our community here.
  • I run a course called Career Hyperdrive helping people build careers they can be proud of. It's not your typical 'careers course' - it's live, cohort based, and I try to avoid tips, tricks and other gimmicks. We focus on ideas, tools and frameworks that will serve you for the rest of your career rather than abstract tactics to use in isolation. It also costs a penny or two so it's not aimed at early stage professionals, although I won't stop you joining. On the other side of the course is a growing community of ambitious professionals who I hold regular online discussions with.

Career Hyperdrive

In this course you'll build a toolkit of mental models and bulletproof core skills that will drastically shorten the growth curve for your career, business or personal brand.

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