In response to your letter: You will be a highly valuable asset to any company that appreciates hard work and determination.
You asked for advice, and mine is based on making a few mistakes, mentoring several 20-somethings, and vetting many resumes.
First, keep a healthy attitude. Make sure you are dedicated to being the person who makes work a great experience for others. Employers need employees with integrity, grit, and kindness. Do what you commit to do. Overcome barriers. Treat people well.
Second, always innovate. You don’t have to invent something new, just try to gain deep awareness of the work structure, and earn the discretion to make it better. Care about the outcomes, and think clearly about the creation of those outcomes.
Third, educate wisely. Throughout your career you need general knowledge about government, economics, business, and behavior; and you need a tool box of skills that you perfect over time. Too many school topics seem to add no value to work.
Fourth, show leadership of your own life. Your career is made up of proof points about how you managed resources – time, money, and relationships. Concentrate your time. Avoid debt. Do not take people for granted. Career growth is based on leading with increasing responsibility of these resources.
Fifth, don’t fool yourself. If your career plan is based on ideas of saving people, traveling the world, or getting praise from others, you are fooling yourself. These may happen in your life, but they are merely self-tempting illusions. A career is based on the value you bring to others in very practical terms.
Sixth, pick a team you like. Your career is basically a team of people who trust you, enjoy working with you, and appreciate the value you bring. Start seeing your current and future network as your career team – help them and they will help you.
So, build on your strengths and find those who appreciate them.
[Reader: Jay Saunders’s profile is at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dalesaundersiii%5D