The One Piece of Career Advice I Wish I’d Gotten

Peter Pan

In the words of Peter Pan, “just a bit of pixie dust” can make pretty much anything happen, even the wobbly transition from college student to working adult. Aside from pixie dust, there’s a list of sometimes stodgy nouns that are necessary partners to that ever elusive pixie dust: grit, passion, determination, perseverance, trust, and patience. With my newly minted B.A., I had everything above (except patience) when I relocated to Washington, D.C. almost four years ago now. Yet there was one thing I had to find through experience:

Invest in people who invest in you.

Before diving in to why this mantra works, let’s take a closer look: investing is a verb. Meaning, you will need to act before doing anything else, as venting doesn’t solve anything (though it can be a necessary intermediate step in problem-solving). Think of your career as an investment portfolio: do research, create long and short-term goals, and have a strategy in place. It doesn’t hurt to do a bit of research to find a great fit, either.

One reason I love this saying is because it applies to any relationship: I focus here on employer/employee, but it can also apply to friendships and romantic relationships. It can also change or evolve over time – investing in an employer isn’t just clocking in and out on time each day. It’s representing your company no matter if you’re on company time or not, looking for new talent to bring in, and being an active alumnus when you do choose to move on from the company.

Someone investing in you can mean so many different things besides a bimonthly paycheck: it can mean someone investing time to be a mentor, the company offering these free perks you hear so much about (free coffee and ping pong tables, anyone?), or the company offering paid maternity or paternity leave. There are so many interpretations to investing; as you grow older, the meaning will change with you.

After you move on to another company, the investment doesn’t have to stop. Your company can give you a glowing recommendation, and you can continue to speak honestly about your time at the company. If the investment portfolio was a right fit for the both of you, there will only be positive gains from each side.