Throughout our lives, we all receive quite a bit of advice, particularly when it comes to our careers. “Have a firm handshake,” “do what you love,” and “attend college” are among things people say to others when it comes to their careers.
For me, the best advice I’ve ever received was “intern early and often.” In the past, internships were thought to be only for high school or college students looking to learn about a particular industry or field. Today, however, internships are a vital source of entry-level experience, a way to change careers, and a necessary foot-in-the-door at most organizations.
I was an intern five times (with five very different experiences) during college. I know first-hand how rewarding a good internship is.
Internships provide you with immediate benefits. An internship program done right can provide you with accomplishment stories you can tell to land your next position, work samples you can proudly share, a mentor for life, networking contacts, practical and “real life” applications of your skills, etc. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t say those things about my undergraduate degree. (Although many would argue that landing a great intern position is difficult to do without the education – which is true in many cases.)
Internships help you learn how to apply your knowledge and skills in real world situations. They also help build one’s professional network before (and after) graduation, and can introduce you to individuals who will help in your job search in the future.
Unfortunately, bad internship programs tend to get the most press. But there are great programs out there, too — you just need to know what to look for. In order to determine if an internship program is a good one, look at the following characteristics: mentorship, education, meaningful work, culture, recommendations, and networking opportunities. It shouldn’t matter if you intern at a “big name” company–startups and small businesses provide great experiences, too!
If you had to decide, what was the best career advice you’ve ever received? How did this advice impact your career?
Should I sign up for the professor who never takes attendance or the one who will make sure I learn? Should I take the job with the higher salary or the one with the greater opportunity for career growth? Should I volunteer for community service or learn how to hang glide? Should I have children when I am young (and poor) or when I am more mature (and better able to afford them)? Should I ditch the big meeting for my son’s baseball game? Should I go for the snazzy red Firebird or the practical Prius? Paper or plastic? Chocolate or fruit? Life is an endless series of choices, and while it makes sense to give careful thought to the decisions you make (except maybe for the chocolate; that’s a no brainer), spending precious time dithering over whether you made the right choice is a losing proposition.
I remember in my youth thinking that the biggest decisions you could face as an adult were whom you chose to spend your life with, what career to pursue, that first home purchase and how many children to have (if any). Of course, once I made the decision to start a family, every decision took on a new perspective. Being responsible for another life (or in my case, four other lives, plus the mate… can’t forget him) meant that every choice you make has to be weighed in terms of its impact on your family.
So now the decisions become more complex, but you still have to make them. And after making that fateful decision to keep working after the birth of my first child (when I naively viewed motherhood as a poor reward for all my schooling), I rarely looked back. I was a working mom and that was how my life was structured. When I did find that extremely rare moment of idle thinking time, why would I waste it on regrets when I could actually be napping?
I once made a decision that uprooted my family in pursuit of my career. Seemed like a good idea at the time. To be perfectly honest, in retrospect, I did spend a little bit of time playing the “what if” game. It’s difficult to avoid that trap. What if I had stayed in New York? Would my career have stalled? Would I have found greater fulfillment? Would my husband and I be happier, healthier, thinner, etc., etc.? Would my children be more or less successful, happier, healthier, thinner? (Am I obsessing?) Would they all have moved out sooner and far, far away? Would I be rich and retired from my second career? Now that is one worth dreaming about, at least for a little while, remembering that the motherhood one always comes first, and it’s a 24/7 lifelong position with no out clause.
Enough dreaming! Let’s move on. Once decisions are made, it’s best to face forward and continue the journey. For every choice you make, you open yourself up to new opportunities, new experiences, new relationships. And that is what life is really all about… the moments in time when we connect with one another.
Besides, you know pretty quickly when the choices you make are bonehead decisions. Don’t waste time berating yourself, especially if you have someone in your ear, whispering that you made a bad choice. Just move on to the next decision, hold onto your sense of humor and hope you learned something in the process.
P.S. And just think about the regrets I might have had as I wondered if I would ever have a use for all those hours spent studying poetry?
If you are thinking about starting a business and have already started doing your research, you’ve probably read about the necessary characteristics that one must have in order to be successful as a business owner. But did you know you also needed a ‘winning mindset’? There is nothing more defeating than a non-conducive mindset, as it can sabotage your efforts on the physical level. The way entrepreneurs view the world and their own future is critical to their success.
Faith and support
An entrepreneurial lifestyle, especially for the first few years or until you have some financial comfort, is laden with sacrifices of all kinds. Cutting down on expenses would mean not eating out so many times, not buying the latest car or gadget, and maybe not shopping as you would have. If you once had a cushy job and were bringing in a decent salary, you are bound to notice a difference in your spending habits. This is true for most small business owners. Besides this, you’re working longer hours, juggling between different tasks that need to be done, as well as trying to make a sale. Running a business and making it profitable takes time and that can get overwhelming. This is the time you would need cheerleaders— be it your spouse, family, or friends. You need them to tell you to keep going. You will also need your own faith to be telling you – ‘it will all work out’. Without faith, nothing is possible.
All entrepreneurs expect to be successful. They envision themselves as successful people and expect good things to come their way. As a prospective entrepreneur, it’s normal to fear what the unknown will bring. When you’re thinking about the future, be prepared for the worst but expect only success. Leave no room for doubt or pessimism. You’ll be surprised at what a magnet you become for all good things – right people, resources, right clients, open doors, and so forth.
Another component of a winning mindset for an entrepreneur is self-confidence – confidence in one’s self and in the ability to overcome adversity. The entrepreneurial journey is often strewn with both good and bad experiences and when the going gets tough, one would need to rely on their inner strength and confidence to keep moving forward.
Also, you would need the confidence to communicate and talk about your products or services. You will be the voice representing your business and you can’t appear hesitant or unsure.
A healthy self-esteem
Successful entrepreneurs believe in the concept of achievement, accomplishment and winning. It is accessible and it is yours. If you feel you do not deserve to win or you only deserve limited triumph, then that is what you will have. You need to believe that anything and everything is possible and create a mindset that’s coming from a place of conviction, belief and deservedness. Everything should be an opportunity.
We talked about beliefs earlier; here we are talking about thoughts. Your efforts in terms of starting a business and creating your products and services really wouldn’t be worth it if the thoughts that you have aren’t positive. What you absorb from outside sources, what self-talk you give yourself, is so important on a daily basis. Pay attention to your thoughts right now. When you think about starting a business, how do you feel? Do you feel hopeful and enthusiastic, like you’re ready to take on the world? Or do you sense self-doubt, like you’re unsure about your future endeavor?