When starting my career, I wish my future self gave me a letter to save me – from myself. Here are five pieces of career advice I wish I had from the start.

We have likely all watched enough Oprah to have thought about that letter – the letter written by my future self. The letter from my future self would dole out nuggets of wisdom and advice on all of the things I should and shouldn’t do, things to see and read, things to eat, how to save money, how to sleep and how to behave.

In retrospect, we all know that those experiences – hangovers, maxed credit cards, trips to Italy, the circle of ride-or-die friends, getting fired or unhealthy relationships.

Our twenties shape who we are, and in our thirties and beyond, are lessons we all have to learn to move past surviving to thriving.

But for me, the one letter that I wish had flown through the magic space-time continuum porthole was one that pertained to my career, and with it, the five most critical knowledge nuggets of business advice I would have hidden away for myself like a chubby little chipmunk.

There are so many things I wish I had known when starting my first professional job and starting down my career ‘path’ – or switchbacks, or if I’m entirely candid, Mount Everest.

"It's not how we make mistakes, but how we correct them that defines us." Intelivate quote Kris Fannin letter from future self with career advice
I would have loved THAT letter from my future self, giving me the best business advice.

I was a 23-year-old girl on a mission, armed with a new Franklin Covey Planner and navy blue suit – replete with white hosiery and ¾-inch heels from Nordstrom.

Because, you know, FANCY – just out of college, living on the West Coast in the early ‘90s where the tech industry was booming.

Back then, job offers still included stock options, paid relocations, signing bonuses, negotiations for higher salaries and benefits.

But through the years, there were a few talks I wish I had the supreme-being knowledge to have had with myself – especially around business advice.

1. Chin Up, Butter Cup.

I will never forget the day that my mentor had to have the talk with me.

To be fair, I’m a crier y’all. I do all the feelings and emotions and cry at military reunion videos, newborn babies and, well, everything. My friend and current co-worker and I call it ‘having the feels.’

Being a female in the workplace often means we can’t be criers (or bitches). You can be sensitive, you can have empathy and compassion, but big girls can’t cry.

You lose credibility with your staff, your leaders, and clients. You’re wasting self-confidence that can be hard to gain back.

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Business advice from my future self:

  • Save the salty, ocular discharge for the ride home.
  • Put some James Blunt on, sing about how beautiful you are but don’t cry at work.

2. It’s Like High School, But Not Really – But Kinda.

There will be ‘clubs’ in the workplace. There will be cliques and egos and cheerleaders and football players. There will be overachievers and slackers.

Sound familiar?

Drama, gossip, and bullies? They exist in the workplace. In many ways corporate is like high school.

I would want 23-year-old Cris to keep her nose down.

To show up to work on time, every day.

To stay when asked, to lunch only with her tribe of trusted friends or even – GASP! – alone.

To not gossip to get ahead. Do not in any way fuel the backstabbers at work. They have enough to go on as it is.

To dress appropriately – like you want to be taken seriously, not to happy hour.

Business advice from my future self:

  • People will violate your trust to get ahead. They will gossip about you if you have too much to drink at a work function or have an inappropriate relationship with a client.
  • Keep work, work and home, home.
  • Save that adorbs mini skirt for a night out with your girls, not casual Friday.

Trust me, grasshopper.

career advice from future self - kris fannin blurred notes
Like blurred notes, the career advice from my future self would have been invaluable. Knowing that it was still in high school? Priceless.

3. Stop It With Reply All, Texting & Email.

For the love of everything, just pick up the phone and call your teammates, leaders, and clients.

The most successful and trustworthy relationships you will build in your professional life are face-to-face or voice-to-voice.

Stop the email and text chains. Expectations, tasks, and communication get lost.

Career advice from my future self: earn respect and be taken seriously.
Career advice from my future self: earn respect and be taken seriously.

The biggest gift you can give a leader, or possess as a leader, is to listen, like real ‘I-hear-the-words-and-emotions-you-are-saying’ listening. It’s harder than you think.

And always – and I mean always – check to whom you are texting, know-it-all younger self.

There just might be a time when you meant to text a confidante about a presentation your organization’s vice president may currently be giving at the front of the room – which might also include your opinion about the aforementioned presentation and vice president – and it goes to the wrong person.

Like maybe to that vice president. This is, of course, hypothetical.

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Business advice from my future self:

  • Always check your correspondence recipients, young Jedi.

Did I say ‘always?’

Because I mean seriously ALWAYS.

4. Find a Tribe.

Find a mentor, and create a trusted work-family (because they will become family). Surround yourself with people who want to build you up, and you can trust with your ideas, emotions and being on your child’s emergency forms at school.

Be thoughtful and strategic about who your tribe is.

At times in your career, you will spend more time at work than with your family.

They will often know you better than your partners, spouses, and friends.

You will have to travel with these peeps, attend their weddings and baby showers, divorce courts and funerals.

Business advice from my future self:

  • Rely on your trusted tribe and treat them like the family that they are.

Except, in this case, you get to pick them.

5. Be Kind.

This is the easiest advice ever but is often the hardest to follow. If you are leading a team, remember that life is hard.

If you are on a team of leaders, remember that life is hard.

Walk away from what you can’t (or shouldn’t) own; don’t think you can fix everything for everyone.

Business advice from my future self:

  • Set boundaries, establish and manage clear expectations and extend resources.
  • Don’t judge and always be kind.

Seriously always.

And there you have it. Five nuggets of career advice. That’s it.

But for me, this letter could go on and span 23 years of successes, mistakes, laughter and amazing memories. But these five nugs would have made some of the hard stuff a little – maybe a lot – easier.

I would love to hear what career advice you would have given your younger professional self so please feel free to share – and maybe you’ll see them in the next article. Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook and start the conversations!