Here at KindredHQ, you know we are on a mission to make freelancing a serious and fulfilling career option for everyone. Like many, I was offered little to no preparation for the world of work when I left Uni and so spent many years trying to make sense of the corporate world. I wish that I’d been inspired to work for myself, do things I enjoy and that I’d be good at, rather than try and conform to an ideal which was never going to happen.
This week, the KindredHQ team delivered our first big event. From the incredible surroundings of Central St Martins, one of London’s finest art and design schools, 5 experienced freelancers from different professions gave the talk that they would have like to have heard as they contemplated their working lives. Think of it as our version of the Commencement Speech.
It inspired me to put down some simple thoughts on starting out that I’m dedicating to all graduates as they step into the unknown.
1. If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for nothing
Not my phrase, but it explains the sentiment entirely. In a world where everyone seems to be an expert, it’s really important that you can stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to take a position and stick with it, even if it goes against the grain. You want to be memorable, don’t you?
2. If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough
We all have dreams. In fact, they are the light at the end of the tunnel when the going gets tough. But it’s the dreams that seem beyond reach that are the ones that are most valuable. They keep you from being average. (see point 4!)
3. Stay humble
Never, ever think you know it all. You don’t. Stay open minded and remember just how much you still have to learn. The people who really stand out are those that treat others with equal respect, no matter what age or where they come from.
4. Don’t be mediocre
Don’t fall into the trap of coasting along and being average. That’s for others. Always try a bit harder to find a better way, to be more creative, to do something that others haven’t thought of. That’s what will make you memorable. Marianne Williamson wrote a much quoted book, A return to Love. This is a passage from it that I often refer to.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
5. You’ll never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have
Right now, you are probably excited about everything. The world is at your feet, and so it should be. But you will have hard times. We all do. Try to remember that you are much stronger than you think, and that you will be OK if you learn new ways to cope with the bad times as you go.
6. Be yourself, not what you think you should be
This is super important. You will be influenced by the good and the bad, and you need to hold on to a real sense of you and trust your intuition. If it feels like it’s the wrong thing to do, it almost certainly is. Some of us spend years ignoring this little voice inside, but if you can train yourself to listen to it, it will act like a personal lighthouse.
7. Work better, not more
There are many employers and clients who will take as much and more than they should, and in your early days of working you will want to make a good impression so it will be difficult to say no. Value yourself and your contribution from day one, and work out what your margins are for negotiation. It is as important to get sleep, to have fun and to nurture the other side of your life. Believe me, the long hours that I did for a few employers were not rewarded and got me no further up the career ladder. They certainly didn’t make me happy.
If you find yourself not enjoying your job and wishing you were doing something else then find an escape route straightaway. Every minute that you stay another part of your soul will die. I promise you. Focus on fulfillment not on the money and you may find that you are way more successful as a result.
9. Don’t be afraid of being wrong
You will be wrong about things. Even when you have a lot of experience. And you’ll make the wrong call. Take it on the chin and say you were wrong, because first of all you will get more respect, and secondly you will learn more from your mistakes that you ever will from textbooks.
10. Find the right tribe
We all need to belong. You need to have people around you that ‘get’ you, and why you make the decisions that you do. It doesn’t mean that you have to do everything the same way, but if you are going to look to others for influence, then find a tribe that nurtures your ambition and supports you when the going gets tough.
I’m kind of envious of you if you are starting your career right now. I don’t underestimate how tough the job market is, but it gives you an opportunity to make things work for you rather than someone else. I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be easy, but it will be worth it.
Please can I be in your tribe? 😉
Please let us know your tips for people just starting out in the comments below.