• Advice To My Younger Self

  • As I get closer to retirement I find myself telling work stories and offering career guidance to my younger colleagues in exchange for beers at the pub or golf course. I can’t help but think what sage advice I would have given to my 20-something year old self, just embarking on my career in geoscience consulting. If I had a time machine available, it would probably go something like this…

    Build your network
    Career growth and opportunities often come down to your personal network of industry contacts. It’s important to not only ‘know your stuff’, but to make sure that others know that you do. Start building your network early on in your career (ideally while still in your pre-work education phase) and continue to grow it throughout your working life. This can help you get exposed to opportunities to learn, meet mentors, and expand your connections.

    Seek out a Mentor
    Real-life career or technical advice from an experienced professional doesn’t often just fall in your lap – you have to seek it. Look for and approach a colleague, educator, or other knowledgeable person in your network that you respect and would like to learn from. Many professional associations provide opportunities to mentor and be mentored. I am proud to be a Volunteer Mentor with the PGO, and to also mentor through AESAC and other avenues. One of the many rewards of being a mentor is to see past mentees eventually become mentors themselves.

    Learn constantly
    School teaches us how to learn, while work experiences allow us to put that education in practice.   Learning new talents, and brushing up on and expanding your existing skill sets can make you a valuable addition for hiring and advance your career over other candidates – or help you to keep your job when economic times get uncertain. Lifelong learning should also be fun, enlightening and something that you are never too old to undertake.

    Don’t be afraid to explore new opportunities
    Sometimes life can get in the way of achieving your career dreams. The high cost of living, student debt, and the reality of starting a young family or purchasing a home can make potential opportunities seem too terrifying to explore. Sometimes you have to take that leap, and rise to the challenge of a new opportunity. By all means be cautious and examine your options carefully, but, as the saying goes – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    Take time for what really matters
    Work can be exhausting and draining, especially when it involves long hours in a highly competitive consulting environment. It’s vital that you look after your physical, emotional and mental health. Try to exercise regularly, eat healthily, get some decent sleep and manage your stress levels. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or advice, when you need it. Take some time off for a vacation. And be sure to make the time to enjoy the really valuable things – don’t miss out on the important milestones of life just because of work   Jobs can come and go; but your own health, and the well being of family and your relationships need to last you a lifetime.

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca