The Strategist

Early career: Simple advice for a head start

06/14/2021 - 04:16

Economists and sociologists agree: working between the ages of twenty and thirty has a very large impact on career development. Around two thirds of wage increases occur in the first ten years of a career. Here are some tips to help make the start an exciting one.
Choose a job that matches your qualifications

There's nothing wrong with taking an "easier" job at the beginning of your career rather than waiting for the big paycheck and a prestigious position to fall into your lap. However, it is advisable to choose your first job so that it suits your skill level and goals you want to achieve.

Unsuitable jobs aren't just a waste of time. It can wreak havoc on your CV: if you're prone to 'unclear' jobs, it's a sign of low ambition. And you yourself run the risk of burning out on an uninteresting case and losing all your energy.

Make connections

A decade before Facebook was launched, sociologist Mark Granovetter conducted a famous study of social networks. He concluded that the most valuable people for job hunting were not close friends and family members but people whom the study participants saw rarely or occasionally. That's the power of weak ties.

Weak ties are people with whom we keep in contact but don't know each other well enough. They may be colleagues or neighbours to whom we only say hello. We all have acquaintances whom we plan to meet over dinner sometime but never do, or old friends with whom we have long lost touch. Weak ties also include former employers, teachers and other people who never became our close friends.

Since these people do not belong to the closed cluster of our close acquaintances, they open us up to something new. They have experiences that we don't have. They know people we are not familiar with. So they can suggest a path we haven't seen for ourselves.

Don't be shy about making and maintaining loose connections: getting to know each other at business events, calling up former classmates or distant relatives from time to time. And if you have a problem, ask for advice not only from those around you every day, but also from those who make up your network of weak connections.

Build up your identity capital

Identity capital is the sum total of your personal assets, the stock of your individual resources. Some aspects of identity capital are reflected on your CV: it could be your education, work experience, examination scores. Others are more personal: for example our way of speaking, our ancestral roots, the way we solve problems and the way we look.

Identity capital is how we create ourselves: step by step, gradually. It is the currency with which we, figuratively speaking, "buy" jobs, relationships and all the things we strive for.

It is our investment in ourselves; something we do well enough or long enough for it to become part of us.

To build strong identity capital, we need to boldly explore the world and ourselves, make commitments and sometimes challenge ourselves. Research shows that people who do this have higher self-esteem; they are much more persistent in achieving their goals and have a more realistic perception of the world around them. They have a clearer sense of self, are more satisfied with life, and cope better with stress. So identity capital is something definitely worth investing in.

Based on “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Meg Jay