Soon after I started my career, my uncle gave me some advice: “Keep doing the homework.” This is the last thing I, or any recent college grad wanted to hear. Soon after starting my new job this advice began to make more sense. While college taught me the basics to prepare for my career, there was still a steep learning curve I needed to overcome. What my uncle was really telling me was to invest time into continued learning so I could position myself for future growth.
Your early career is a great opportunity to invest in your future. Often new employees expect training from their employer, which sometimes is the case. However, as professionals, it is incumbent upon us to invest our own time in independent learning beyond what we learned in college. For the first couple years of my career, I spent time after work reading publications on new technologies, developing new procedures for analyzing problems, and practicing with various software tools to master the fundamental elements of my job. In football terms, I was practicing blocking and tackling, the basic stuff that if not done well, would hold me back.
It wasn’t until years later I realized the impact this had on my career growth. The interesting part is, getting good at the “blocking and tackling” only impacted my career growth slightly. It was mastering these basics early that provided me time later in my career to learn new skills. Skills I could only learn and develop through career experience. Growth is a continuous learning process and each new role requires investment.
Today I find myself using community involvement and other resources to develop my skills in networking, management, sales, etc. I have the time now to learn and develop these skills because of the investment I made to build the foundation of my career. If anyone were to ask my advice on how to become successful early on in their career, I would tell them what my uncle told me: “Keep doing the homework.”