The Best Two-Minute Career Advice

Corey Burns Career Advice, Career Paths, Coaching, College Recruiting, Communication, Corey Burns, Interviewing, Learning

I was given two minutes’ worth of advice nearly twelve years ago, and I repeated that same advice to colleague last week. It’s proof that it’s still relevant, regardless of time. My goal for this article is to be simple, quick, and for readers to come away with the simplest advice to absorb and ultimately share with others. To cut to the chase: don’t be a jerk.

The individual who told me this was a mentor and professor; his closest students referred to him as “JPC.” He was the type of professor who many would call ‘non-traditional’ in the world of academia, but his non-traditional approach led to an excellent track record of building employable professionals.

The day JPC shared this advice with me is a day I will never forget. I was sitting with him and a friend over a beer (I said non-traditional), and we were talking about all the great things we wanted to accomplish in our careers after we left college. This was when JPC dropped the two minutes of knowledge that has remained with me to this day. “When you start your job after graduating, go in with big eyes, big ears, and most importantly don’t be a jerk.”

Let’s unpack that.

The two-minute lesson from JPC:

  1. Big Eyes: Observe and watch as much as you can. Learn about the company, culture, employees, etc. Remember, you’re going into an environment that is different than the college/university, or the company that you’ve just left. Taking some time to watch how others interact will help you gain valuable insights about your colleagues, their work styles, the politics or power structure within the company, and so much more. Ultimately, you can use that knowledge to your advantage.  
  2. Big Ears: Do more listening than talking. Don’t assume you know more or less than the individuals around you; just listen and learn. Respectfully ask questions and learn as much as you can. By actively listening, you’ll get up to speed more quickly and feel less lost as you navigate your career.
  3. Don’t Be a Jerk: Most importantly, don’t be a jerk. You can be the most talented and skilled at your job, but if people don’t like you, your success will be limited. Per JPC, 85% of success is derived from trust and relationships. Only the remaining 15% is dependent upon your skill set. Think about it this way: If two candidates with identical experience and skills were interviewed, but one was rude and the other was polite, which would you hire? By being likeable, approachable, and trustworthy, you’ll find career success is much more attainable.

I told you this was simple! In today’s world, we all can benefit from being nicer, and careers can certainly thrive if you follow this approach. Whether you’re seeking help yourself, or if someone is asking you for advice on how to be successful, start with building relationships.

And, whatever you do, don’t be a jerk.