Career hindsight can be a wonderful thing. If you have years of professional experience under your belt, it's easy to look back and spot shrewd decisions or missed opportunities. While wisdom acquired over the years unfortunately can't be passed down to our younger selves, it can be hugely informative and illuminating for people without years of solid work experience behind them.
Chasing a fulfilling career can feel like a never-ending struggle, and it's easy to presume that the most successful people have sailed to the top without any setbacks or worries. But this isn't true. Whether you're a young professional hoping for a lucky break or a student graduating this year, we've compiled the top tips that business leaders and CEOs wish they'd known right at the very beginning.
Learn from these experts, put their insights into practice and make 2016 the year your career kicks off.
Learn from the mistakes of others to get ahead in the career race. Pic by meridican.
1. Learn another language
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, not knowing a second language is one the most frequently mentioned career regrets. While English is the primary business language and is widely spoken across the world, having a second language is still enormously valuable. With more national companies going global every year, being bilingual will give you the opportunity to live and work abroad.
There are many benefits of having a second language. Aside from giving you a considerable competitive advantage and looking good on your resume, it's beneficial from a social perspective too. Even billionaire Bill Gates isn't immune from the regret of being monolingual, citing his regret at English being his only language and praising Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg for his fluent Mandarin skills.
"I feel pretty stupid that I don't know any foreign languages," Gates admitted. "I took Latin and Greek in high school and got A's and I guess it helps my vocabulary. I keep hoping to get time to study one of these - probably French because it is the easiest. I did Duolingo for a while but didn't keep it up. Mark Zuckerberg amazingly learned Mandarin and did a Q&A with Chinese students - incredible."
2. Establish clear values
If you're even entertaining the idea of running your own company one day, one of the most important things to do is establish clear company values from the very beginning. If your own values are strong, it's much easier for employees and customers alike to be stimulated, to absorb the values themselves and commit to advancing the organization.
Strong values also allow strategic plans to be appropriately defined, as the guiding principles and ideals are evident. Well-defined company values mean happier, more motivated staff and make it significantly easier to hold onto outstanding employees too - something crucial for any successful company.
"Some people say that corporate values are the epitome of phoniness and that's true if all you're doing is sticking them up on a wall," says Steve Pogorzelski, the CEO of business data company Avention. "But it's important to remember that companies don't have values; people have values. When you start to think that way, a value system becomes a guiding force for hiring, performance reviews and the way people approach their work."
3. Don't fall for the money trap
It can be so tempting, especially when you're at the beginning of your career, to take the highest-paying job regardless of whether you're passionate about it or not. Without two cents to rub together and crippling college debts, it often seems like the logical option. But long-term, it absolutely isn't.
One of the most oft cited career regrets in the U.S. is opting for a high-paying but ultimately frustrating and unsatisfying career. It's worth bearing in mind that it can be hard to get off this rewarding ride once you're on it, too; many professionals are open about how much they want to quit but feel it's impossible due to their commitments. Well, financial incentives aren't called golden handcuffs for nothing.
"Don't choose your first job based on money," urges Brad Barron, the President and CEO NuStar Energy. "Rather, choose a place to work that fits your values. Ultimately, you will be more successful in a job you love than in one you hate. There's a well-known quote that sums it up best: find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."
4. Believe in yourself
This one may sound like a no-brainer, but without self-belief the other tips are essentially worthless. Aside from impressing Gates with his Mandarin skills, Zuckerberg is also renowned for being one of the most confident, dynamic and successful moguls in the world - not bad for a 31-year-old.
Facebook's founding father launched the most popular online social networking service the world has ever seen (a staggering 1.5 billion users log on every month) from his dorm room at Harvard. Zuckerberg became a billionaire while he was still in his 20s and told TIME that without self-belief he never would have even bothered developing his social networking idea.
"The most important thing is to just have faith in yourself and trust yourself. When you're young, you hear that you don't have experience to do things, that there are people that have more experience than you. But I started Facebook when I was 19. Don't discount yourself, no matter what you're doing, because everyone has a unique perspective that they can bring to the world."