Letter from Linda
Clues for Successful Careers
by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor
Hi there! Since my last article, I have visited the Texas Tech Student Chapter, been to the January meeting or the STC Board in Austin, given a presentation at the Lone Star Chapter in Dallas, and went back to Austin on March 21 to keynote their awards banquet. Next month, I will visit the Alamo Chapter for their twentieth anniversary party; then in April, I'll be in Utah for several days visiting the Intermountain Chapter, the Utah State Student chapter, and the BYU Student Chapter! Luckily, I'll be home for a breather before we all meet in Dallas at the STC @50 Annual Conference! Whew! This STC job sure is exciting!
One of the presentations I give is on career management. In it, I discuss several aspects of how our careers develop and share a model of career growth with my audiences. Recently, I found some notecards from a talk I'd given many years ago on "Clues for Successful Careers." I took the serendipitous discovery of these cards as a sign that I should reconsider them for myself and share them with you. Here are the major points:
1. Keep Learning. We must remember to stay current, stay dynamic, and read, read, read. Red Smith once said, "My advice to an aspiring sportswriter would be: don't be a sportswriter. Learn what the newspaper business is about before you become a specialist." So, my advice to you is to learn and do "core" more than "context." The tool skills are necessary, but if you don't know the underlying principles of why we do what we do, you might as well work in a vacuum. Learn about the business you're in. You'll serve it more professionally.
2. Find a Professional Society and Be Active in It. Hey, folks, I didn't make this up! But the truth is out there. Being in a professional society offers you breadth of information about your work. It offers networking opportunities, and it offers growth. I received experience in STC that I was later able to use to qualify for promotions. If your professional society is for medical writers or usability experts or anime creators, that's fine! Just join it and use its resources. Get involved. Only being a name on a membership roster won't do you any good.
3. Find a Mentor and Be One. Sometimes it's tough to be a mentor, but you absolutely should not only have one, but be one. Each of us must find one or more mentors to keep growing and succeeding. And just as importantly, we need to help others by being a mentor. Each of us needs at least one mentor, even experienced people like me! Mentoring is a supportive relationship that nurtures, informs, and smartens both parties! Make it happen!
4. Take Risks. Author and physician Paul Tournier said, "Tis better to make a mistake in an honest choice than never to choose at all." We all know the story of how Edison failed hundreds of times to make the light bulb. I'm not saying we need to make hundreds of mistakes as we move forward in our careers, but I am saying that we need to try things that we're unsure of. We need to follow that intuitive spark and open that enticing door, even if we're scared of where they might lead. Staying in a place that's comfortable but not quite what you want won't help your career become truly successful. Rather, it dims your vision of what could be.
5. Be Ethical. To me, this clue is the most important of them all. As we move forward in our careers, we become more professional, and other people respect us for our knowledge, our path to that knowledge, and our integrity. If we can't deliver what we have promised to do--whether it's a proposal, a report, or a picnic table--we must face the consequences and explain our failings.
The practice of delivering more than you promise is a tough one to follow, perhaps more so today than ever before in your career. However, delivering less and then covering it up, blaming it on someone else, or arguing about the original agreement are never considered honorable. Your reputation is your most important asset. Guard it with your life, and your career will show that the effort was worth the pain.
Blessings to you all,
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