Just Starting Your Career? Heed This Advice From a CEO
If you’re just entering your career, or switching up jobs and starting somewhere else, it can be tough to get your bearings. Not only do you have to learn new skills and accept new responsibilities, but you have to get acclimated to the work environment you find yourself in. So what does it take to start strong and stay sane?
Grotto recently chatted with Ian Sohn, the North American CEO of marketing agency Iris, to talk about the advice he had for young people entering the workplace. Having worked in the advertising industry for 25 years, Ian is no stranger to the hustle and grind. He’s also learned the importance of balancing hustle with rest — just read his viral LinkedIn post to see where he stands.
When it comes to hustle culture in general, Ian reminds us that hustle itself is not an issue. “There is a ton of value in working really hard and hustling and grinding and putting in the hours and being passionate and caring. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he shares. “But I think hustle as an identity or hustle as a culture is concerning.”
Here are his three pieces of advice for those starting new jobs — especially those who want to avoid getting overwhelmed by hustle culture.
Take ownership of your health.
Ideally, we’d all have supervisors and coworkers who care about our wellbeing. And while that’s not too much to ask for, it’s unfortunately not always the case. And even if it is, it’s really up to us to take care of ourselves. “You have to take ownership over it,” Ian shares. “There is nobody who will or necessarily should care more about your health, your mental health, your balance, than you should.”
He admits, “I fully recognize I have certain privileges that allow me to maintain my agency over my schedule, my health, and my well-being.” But he goes on to say that it remains to be an important focus for young people. Prioritizing your health and being mindful of how much of yourself you invest in your work life — mentally, emotionally, physically — is something we need to learn how to do from the very start of our career.
Ask questions and be curious.
“When you’re looking for a new job or you’re interviewing,” Ian says, “ask what their point of view is on work-life balance. Ask what a typical week looks like. Ask how often you should expect to spend on airplanes and in hotels and in cities that aren’t yours. Ask about benefits related to vacation and paid time off and parental leave and bereavement and mental health resources.”
Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions because those answers matter. They’ll tell you if the job is a good fit — beyond the skills and experiences needed.
Have interests outside of work.
Whether you’re juggling multiple part-time jobs or working an office 9–5, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to do things after work. But Ian emphasizes: “You need to have a network and interests outside of what you do for a living, otherwise, that’s what defines you.” If work is all you do, work is all you’re going to think about. Being busy and overwhelmed can quickly become your personality, entwined with your identity.
Even something as simple as grabbing dinner with friends, scheduling quiet time to read in the morning before work, or picking up a new hobby like bicycling or painting can bring balance to your week. Ian shares how he goes on a yearly vacation with a group of friends that he uses as time to get away from work: “We spend a week together. We talk about a million other stupid things, but we don’t talk about work. I think that’s really important — to have an existence in life outside of work.”
One last thing to consider as you enter a new job: what does success look like to you? For Ian, as a CEO, he shares that watching others succeed makes him feel successful. “My job is to bring out the best in everyone, and help them grow and succeed,” he says. “I lead them by serving them…by saying, what do you want, and what do you need, and how can I help?”
But for those just starting their careers, things like experience or money are often the biggest motivating factors. Ian shares, “The first question I ask anybody who’s considering taking a new job, switching careers, is: at this point in your life, what’s your most important motivating factor?” When you determine your motivating factor, you set yourself up better to achieve that level of success you desire.