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Career Advice

5 Modern Career Skills & Advice That You Don't Learn In College

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

July 24, 2017

The modern workforce has evolved steadily over the last decade thanks to ever-changing technology and the millennial generation, the latter of which will make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. As such, traditional job advice like, stay the course, even if you don’t like your job and don’t challenge your boss or ask too many questions, are no longer applicable.

Instead, you have to consider what it takes to be successful in a modern world that’s moving fast and following a different set of rules, where passion and opinions matter and collaboration is critical. Use this advice to make your career the best it can be.

1. Social capital can be just as valuable as personal knowledge.

It’s your first week at your first job and you’re feeling like you’ve been placed in a world you don’t understand; where you can’t add value or keep up. This is how everyone feels at their first “real” job out of college—and how many feel at a new job. That’s when you start to build your social capital


“Social capital is a form of mutual reliance, dependency, and trust. It hugely changes what people can do. This is truer now than ever. It’s impossible in modern organizations to know everything that you need to know. What you need are lots of people who know lots of different things. Collectively you’re smarter,” says Margaret Heffernan, CEO of five businesses.

If you struggle to provide value in meetings or brainstorm sessions, focus on meeting as many people as you can. Ask them questions, offer to help, and learn as you go. Not only will this make you a better employee, but you’ll also feel more confident having that social capital in the workplace.

2. Don’t let fear of failure get in the way of your career.

Fear of failure was the most common fear among 1,000 Americans polled. While that may not sound shocking, what comes as a result of that fear is: 13.4 percent of respondents reported losing a job due to their fear, and 6.1 percent gave up a promotion.

In our hyper-connected world of social media, it’s easy to feel less-than when you see and hear about your friends succeeding at work, or you read about “regular people” who started million dollar companies overnight. However, those stories are the exception and you are the majority.

It’s scary to make leaps in life and your career, whether that’s taking a big promotion or starting your own business. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Don’t let fear of failure keep you from making a move that could take your career to a level you never thought you’d achieve.

3. Always ask, “How can I help you?” at networking events.

Networking is an important part of getting ahead in your career—when you know the right people, it’s easier to get jobs that you want or the help that you need. That’s why it’s critical that you don’t immediately ask for something; the connections you make can be helpful for a long time, and starting off by asking for something is sure-fire way to turn people off.

Instead, offer your help first, whether you’re meeting a new co-worker or someone at a careers mixer:

“When first meeting someone you think could be helpful, offer your services first. Ask: What do you need help with right now? What do you see yourself needing the most support with in the future?” suggests Ted Rollins, Co-Chairman and Founding Principal of Valeo Groupe.  

He continues, “Being authentic with connections and always trying to provide greater value makes them more likely to do the same for you. This sets the foundation for a strong network that is instrumental for everyone involved.”

The help you offer can be as simple as connecting the person with someone who has similar interests. You always have something to offer, so get creative if you have to.

4. You don’t have to stay at one job to move forward in your career.

Sheryl Sandberg, arguably one of the most successful and well-known women in the modern business world, agrees: “There is no straight path to where you are going. If you try to draw that line you will not just get it wrong, but you will miss big opportunities. As Pattie Sellers of Fortune Magazine says, careers are not ladders but jungle gyms. You don't have to have it all figured out,” she explains on Quora.

Instead, she suggests adopting two main goals in life or your career:

  • A long-term dream, whether that’s to travel the world or own your business. It doesn’t have to seem realistic or within reach, simply having a goal provides direction.
  • An 18-month plan with personal goals. Ask yourself: what do I want to do and what I am I afraid of?

Let these lead you, rather than focusing on the traditional, “climb the ladder” style of building a career. When you do that, you’ll create a life that’s based on your passions.

5. You don’t have to work yourself into the ground to be successful.

There’s a stigma in the modern workforce that you have to work all hours of the day, answering emails in bed and dragging yourself to office at 7am, to be successful. However, many successful people, including Arianna Huffington, would disagree with that:

“… For far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion—that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success. I wish I had known this when I was 22. I’m convinced I would have achieved all I have achieved with less stress, worry and anxiety,” she explains in If I Were 22: Chart Your Own Path to Success.

Instead, set boundaries for yourself—stop answering emails after 6pm—make time to unplug at night, and create a relaxing morning routine to prepare you for the day. You’ll get more done and have more to offer at work when your brain is functioning at its highest level, not trudging along, just trying to get by.

Use this modern career advice to build a life and a career you love. Take the wise words of Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington to heart—they may just be the words you repeat in your mind for many years to come.

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