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4 Unconventional Things Nobody Tells You to Do at Work

by Victoria Kurichenko about a month ago in career

The best career tips I wish I knew in my early 20s.


When you are young, the first job seems like a blessing. You diligently do what others say, sacrifice your time and energy to complete tasks, go above and beyond to prove you are worth your role.

It’s a common superstition that companies make a favor hiring young specialists.

In time, the priceless experience arrives, which helps to set up priorities in life and establish the right attitude to work. However, it takes your precious time, which is a finite resource.

Whenever I tried to accomplish more at work, the reward was even more work to do. Nothing personal. It’s just business.

You are told to pursue the business objectives. However, there are other things you can do at work that will help you focus on yourself, your goals and create the life you deserve.

I wish I learned these things in my early 20s.

1. Build a Strong Network

What comes to your mind when I say a “workplace”? Perhaps tasks, duties, business lunches, coffee breaks, and cozy chats with teammates.

It is true to some extent! You give your life energy and time to all these things. However, do you get anything in return apart from your hourly pay-check?

42% of youth is motivated by a large salary. It only gets clear in time that money is a byproduct of your work. It is directly affected by your ability to recognize and catch the right opportunities. Although you might not necessarily know where to find them, more experienced people can help you get there much faster.

When I landed my first job as a customer support representative, I closely worked with over 50 young enthusiasts. In time, most of those great people became coaches, entrepreneurs, software developers, HR managers, and writers.

A long time ago, my former colleague from the first job called me and offered to join his company. This is how my journey as a marketer started.

The power of networking is tremendous. You never know what awaits you tomorrow and who will give you a helping hand.

However, there is one thing you can do for real — establish a good relationship with your colleagues! Build a network of smart people around yourself, and they will never let you fail.

As an old African proverb put it well:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

2. Become a T-Shaped Specialist

When you are at the beginning of your career journey, you have no clue where you will end up in time.

You might start at an incredible pace at one workplace and then stuck for a while doing shallow work. No one is safe from such drastic movements. I’ve also been through it.

At the early stage of my career, I happened to join one company as a junior marketer. I was delighted to kick-off my career and to learn from the best. However, I ended up drifting between various product management roles, feeling I am doing something meaningless. I lacked guidance and a clear vision of who I want to be.

What nobody told me back then, which is the best career advice I’ve ever heard — Strive to become a T-shaped specialist.

When I got familiar with the terms I-shaped and T-shaped people, it blew my mind. The concept is simple, yet it changed the way I used to treat my work.

T-shaped people have a broad set of skills and experience in various fields of one industry. However, they also have a specialization, in-depth knowledge, and expertise in one area of work.

T-shaped model skills model. Image courtesy of the author. Image created in Canva

T-shaped experts are unique and valuable in the job market. They can be great managers in the corporate environment or independent contractors.

People often think they have a whole life ahead to become someone and do something. In a blink of an eye, they realize most of their best years are gone, and nothing awaits them in the future.

I don’t want to be like that, neither you! Don’t give up on your life, okay? Promise? Instead, create your ideal self, become valuable and bring value to others.

3. Follow the 20% Rule

There is a miracle initiative called “20 percent time” actively used by Google that lead to the creation of AdSense, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talks, etc.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created this concept to let their employees spend one full-day a week (20% of their time) on projects of their choice. They can use this time to educate themselves, embrace their creativity, switch the area of work and try something new.

The idea behind it is pretty simple: Our brain capacity is limited. We sometimes don’t see a simple solution to a challenge because we’ve dealt with it for a while. A mental break boosts innovative thinking. It helps us to see outside of the box and leads to ideas generation.

The harsh truth is — working on the edge of your abilities won’t make you smarter, wealthier, or happier. It will exhaust your time and energy. It’s worth remembering if you ought to deal with the deep work.

No one will come to you and tell you: “Look, you really work hard, and we appreciate it. Take some time to recharge your batteries, and focus on self-education. It won’t only make you smarter. We, as a company, will also highly benefit from your new skills.“

I no longer work on weekends; I don’t open my to-do lists early in the morning, and I force myself to stop working at 6 pm. I decided to prioritize myself over my work and dedicate more time to learning, building my side-hustles.

It is easy to fall into the trap of blindly doing your job tasks every day. However, I encourage you to stop for a second and rethink the way you approach your work.

Why not give it a try? Let 80% of what you do be about your work, obligations, unavoidable and compulsory tasks you ought to do daily. However, leave one-fifth of your time for yourself and your future!

You never know which opportunities and rewards will follow after.

4. Match Opportunities With Your Goals

In other words, mind your goals when you take the next career steps!

Your life is full of opportunities. However, it does not mean you have to catch all of them. Take a closer look, filter out, make mistakes, learn from them and correct your life trajectory.

To live a mindful life, you have to understand what you expect from it. It is one of the biggest challenges people face regardless of their age.

I was “blind” for a while, not knowing what to pursue in life. Nevertheless, I knew how my ideal life should look like; it turned out to be a much easier task.

I want to be helpful, bring value to people, see the results of my work, travel a lot, and never stop learning. It was, and it is my goal. What’s left is to align it with my opportunities and lifestyle.

Once you adopt this mindset, you will gradually start rejecting plenty of offers, including job offers.

Nobody will remind you to pursue your dreams and goals at work. You are only required to pursue business goals. It is good if they match yours, but they can also be drastically different.

Don’t compromise your future to be somebody’s darling! Opportunities come and go. You have to catch the ones that will help you grow as a professional, develop your personal traits and establish the right foundation for a bright future.

Final thoughts

Schools teach us there is only one correct answer, while our life is not only black and white. There are endless approaches on how to deal with challenges.

We’ve been taught to memorize lots of facts instead of learning the entrepreneurial mindset, financial literacy, and communication skills.

It is sad to realize that 52% of graduates don’t know where to head from school, and they eagerly accept any opportunity in life.

If you wonder what else you can do at work that would transform your future, I would say this:

  • Imagine your ideal life first, and then decide on your next steps.
  • Pursue your passion, not money. Instant gratification eventually leads nowhere.
  • Value people over your job.
  • Strive to become a T-shaped expert. It will make you unique on the job market and let you decide who you want to work with.
  • Always prioritize yourself above your job. Work never ends, while your time and energy are priceless.

Victoria Kurichenko
Victoria Kurichenko
Read next: Why Denny's Is the Perfect Starter Job for a Cook
Victoria Kurichenko

Marketer turned writer. I make marketing stuff funny and simple. Meanwhile, sharing inspiring personal growth stories.

See all posts by Victoria Kurichenko

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