The Job Search And Career Advice Blog header image 2

40 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Career

February 25th, 2008 · 21 Comments

Posted by

A conversation with some friends this weekend led to this list forming in my head. Feel free to add your own in the comments. If I like them, I’ll add them to the list.

  1. The career you think you’re going to have? This is not the career you’re going to end up with. The job you went to college for? That’s not the job you’re going to end up with.
  2. You will spend a good portion of your work day with nothing to do.
  3. Meetings almost never solve anything and never end on time.
  4. You will seriously embarrass yourself, and possibly endanger your career at at least one (and maybe more) of your office Christmas parties.
  5. Trusting co-workers can be bad for your career.
  6. The movie Office Space isn’t just a comedy.
  7. Pay is really about sitting or standing. The more you are sitting, the more you get paid.
  8. Having a passing knowledge of current sports events is a critical skill for office small talk.
  9. You’re probably way, way overeducated for the job you’re in. A good $30 thousand of those student loans you’re still paying off were wasted.
  10. There are plenty more important things in life than your career.
  11. You know that 401 k matching plan? It was really a pretty good idea. Grab a calculator. Calculate how much more money you’d have today if you had started contributing the day you were hired instead of 2 years ago when you finally broke down and did it. Now faint.
  12. Some workplaces function EXACTLY like high school.
  13. The company’s stock will not always go up.
  14. Learning to look busy is a valuable survival skill.
  15. You’re unlikely to ever meet a happy accountant.
  16. No one really takes the time to adequately train you. All new employees are inadequately trained.
  17. Upper management is more focused on improving their golf game than improving their company’s bottom line.
  18. The mistakes you make are sometimes more valuable than the things you did exactly right.
  19. When your career is the only good thing you’ve got going in your life, it’s time to reassess your life.
  20. That temporary job you settled for… is it really temporary if you’re still in it after all this time?
  21. Turf wars and office politics exist in every office, no matter how small.
  22. Be nice to the administrative assistants; they are the key to everything because they keep the world turning.
  23. It’s rare that your colleagues are actually smarter than you; it’s all confidence.
  24. Old white guys are not old and wise guys.
  25. Dear lord, office bathrooms can be gross.
  26. You never really get to rest. A career is about always building, always moving forward.
  27. Your boss is a human being too.
  28. No one will believe in you more than you.
  29. And if you don’t believe in you, you’re not going anywhere.
  30. Office gossip can be positively deadly.
  31. Sometimes the game IS rigged.
  32. Lunch – try to never skip it. You do not earn points for working through it and it helps you stay sane.
  33. It IS possible to one day wake up and realize you hate your dream job.
  34. You fear taking your eye off the ball, but sometimes that is really what you NEED to do.
  35. The car you drive to work is very important. Office workers put a lot of value judgments on fellow workers vehicles.
  36. Timing, like location, is literally EVERYTHING.
  37. Networking is not just a buzzword: it’s the most valuable thing you can do for your career.
  38. Take the lowest paying job with the best job description and title, rather than the best paying job with the worst job title.
  39. “Follow-through” is a great characteristic to be known for when you are first hired.
  40. Do what you love, even if it pays less than something you’re good at.

Related posts:

  1. Should You Consider A Career Change?
  2. How Have A Six Figure Career
  3. Hot New Career Field? Mortgage Counselor!
  4. Broken Promises Can Break Your Career

Tags: Jobs · WorkLife

  • Richard Rinyai

    I completely agree with point #40. I went through so many different jobs in the past and finally found the one I love right now.

    I make a little less than what I could have made, but my happiness is much more important than money!


    Richard Rinyai

  • Pingback: Fabulous Financials » Best of the Blogosphere

  • http://chele chele

    I wish someone would’ve told me #40 when I was 22.

  • josh

    can only agree with 1/3 of was said.

  • Dave

    41. NEVER, under any circumstances, give in to the temptation of fucking a co-worker. She knows your real name. She knows where you work. She can find out where you live. You may wind up having to kill her.

  • mehmet

    I’m at the beginning in my career so these 40 things are very important and useful for me ;) thanks for your experiences and 40 advice.

  • Eleanor Finley

    I came across this list through Stumble! while at work, exemplifying #2 of your list. I am 21, interning for the 4th consecutive year at a fed contractor, where the management is VERY encouraging that I pursue my career within the company. Thing is, I am hopelessly unstimulated, underpaid, and already forsee this career being a dead-end. This list has been the latest installment of inspiration for me to break free. Screw 9-5’s.

  • Eric

    - You can judge an entire person’s character based on their response to a paper jam in the copier.
    – A committee is an exhaustive exercise meant to prove that democracy has its failings too.
    – Outside interests are essential – no exceptions.

  • Ceconix

    Most of that is true. I’m proof that you can do what you wanted when you were growing up, you can do what you love, and you can do what you went to school for.

    I know, I’m the exception. :)

  • Steven

    Agree with most of what you said. Except that I am an accountant and that most of the people working with me are happy to work for the company. Ok it’s a really good company.

  • Courtney

    I found this on Stumble late one night. I’m just launching my career at 23, still trying to figure out what to do, and this list is wonderful!

  • Alex Cassidy

    4?. You have the right to change your mind. Its simply Ok & expected for you to reevaluate your direction from time to time & make career changes as you go along. What you love at 26 may not be what you thought you loved at 19. It ok to want more money. Its ok to take less money and live in a location you want to be in. The point is realizing what you want and making it happen in your life, your the only person living it.

  • Alvin

    Upper management is more focused on improving their golf game than improving their company’s bottom line.

  • Alvin

    I really likes this one ^^

  • Marcia Robinson

    This is a good list. Career lessons can be found everywhere. Here are 30 career lessons from Barack Obama’s campaign


  • Fai

    28, 29, and 40 are the most important. You have to believe in yourself and have your own back when no one else (AND I MEAN NO ONE) does. ooooohhhh yeah and the lunch one. I was literally at my desk WORKING thru lunch trying to help the company when I got the dreadful call from HR…

  • Zen

    After working for 9 years for 9 different companies… I’m sure I can tell the job I have right now is far better than those 8. It’s less evil that the others.

    But when the going gets tough, the tough goes job hoppping.

    I’ll go to my friendly job hunter

  • FD

    So glad I came across this. How true.

  • asdandy

    Don’t be a person that gets “One Year” of experience “Twenty Five” Times.

    Always be learning, when you have it all figured out, its time to start looking for the next opportunity.

    Don’t every be the “smartest guy” or the “guy with the most experience” in your “circle of friends and associates”

  • Pingback: 10 Wise Lessons: What I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger | | Tech news

  • Pingback: 40 Things Best To Know When Starting A Career « Job Market Monitor