No professional trajectory is the same. We differ in backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations. Yet, we can all agree that reaching that rewarding sense of success can be difficult at first glance. Where do I start? How do I get where I want to be? Those are some of the questions we might’ve asked ourselves at some point. But fear not! Along the way, we can encounter bits and pieces of great ― and beyond helpful! ― advice that can make the journey towards our professional goals a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling. Here at Saylor Academy, we turned to our team to share top-notch career advice that we hope gives you a better insight into effective professional development.

Read our team’s thoughts below:

Jeffery Davidson – Executive Director: “My advice is to try to find a role where your personal interests (e.g. what makes you happy) intersects with what is marketable (e.g. what will someone give you money for). The more overlap you have the happier you will be and the more successful you will be as well. If it takes a while to figure that out, arm yourself with foundational skills like communication, critical thinking, teamwork, and decision-making. All of those can help in any field and give you a solid foundation to build upon as you work toward finding your dream role.”

Jacqueline Arnold – Director of Strategic Relationships: “The advice I give everyone is, to quote Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind“. Research a position that is either your dream position or one position “above” where you are now, or one at a competitor, etc. How do the skills and knowledge compare to your current skill set? What do you need to learn? Then, go acquire those skills (for free if you can).”

Christine Mullins – Education Project Manager: “My daughter is about to go off to college so I have been thinking lately about what I feel I did correctly and some career mistakes I made along the way. First, you need a college degree to get almost any type of job in the United States. Why? Hiring managers want to see some proof that you are motivated, you are a quick learner, and that you will work hard when hired. These are the skills you need to earn a college degree. Having a four-year degree demonstrates you have perseverance. However, you can also show off your motivation and skills with classes you took at your local community college, while you raised a family, worked at a full- or part-time job, or served in the military. Having a college degree is a huge confidence booster. While we all know that those who lack a college degree are just as smart and qualified for most jobs, I have found that the friends I have who lack this credential often feel like they are less worthy – even if they have an important, great-paying job. While this sentiment may be absurd, our society values college graduates, and having a degree will make you feel like you are just as smart as anyone else in the room.”

“So keep studying so you can earn that all-important college degree, but it also helps to have work experience. If you are having trouble getting a job, you can show off your motivation and business smarts by taking advantage of internships and volunteer opportunities. Knock on the door of a local business or non-profit you admire and ask them if you can join their team. You may not get paid much if anything at all. You may only be able to afford to work a couple of hours a week. But this will help you build your resume and show your future employer that you want to work and you are motivated to learn. Pay attention and you can learn something from every job. The internship you love will tell you what you are good at, and what you want to do with your life. But the one you dislike will help you discover what you do not want to do, so you can focus your efforts on what to pursue! Hiring managers often have to choose one individual from the 50 resumes they receive from a job posting. Most can tell if you are faking interest just to get a job and having experience will help. They do not care whether you learned how to do what they need during your volunteer gig, just that you can use your skills to help their business or nonprofit succeed. So get out there, volunteer in your community to get your foot in the door, and do not settle for less! My final word of advice: make sure you do not have a single typo in your resume!”

Cherisse Gardner – Open Education Resource Accelerator Manager: “By using resources like Saylor Academy you not only are learning new skills but are proving to yourself and others to be the kind of self-motivated lifelong learner ready for what comes next, That is probably the most important skill of all for success. To quote the Roman philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity“. Good Luck!”

Education Team Collaborator: “My advice to young professionals would be that career paths are pretty non-linear these days and that you can move in any number of directions to get to a place where you’re happy. Because of that, try not to worry or compare yourself to others, since there’s no way you’re ‘supposed to’ progress in your career.”

Ryan McDonnell – UX Designer: “My career advice is to be kind to yourself and your coworkers. You spend a good chunk of your day with coworkers, and your life will be better and more productive if you find ways to appreciate each other and get along. If you’re looking for a job, have patience with yourself – it can take a while to find something that fits with the life you want.”

Denise Borsuk – Education Project Manager: “We ask children what they want to be when they grow up, which makes it sound like you can only be one thing, and ideally you should know what that is from young. But life doesn’t usually progress in straight lines, and sometimes you have to start doing something before you figure out whether you like it or not. So don’t be afraid to try things and explore opportunities! Expect change, be flexible, and keep learning!”

John Azinheira – Director of Technology: “It’s really important to learn how to learn and how to think critically. There will always be new tools, techniques, and technologies to learn how to use effectively. And being able to think critically ― about new problems, about new data ― will help to be more effective at learning, at weeding through (sometimes bad) information, and at working through problems at work and in life.”

Sean Connor – Director of Student Affairs: “Say “yes” often; say “no” sometimes. Seek mentors; seek feedback; ask questions. Ask for what you want/need. Have a plan. Have several plans. Know that the plan(s) will change. Always be learning; stretch yourself. Pace yourself. Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome; learn and trust your strengths. Help others; share credit / ask for help, share credit.”

Gustavo Barrera – Student Affairs Assistant: “One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Mackay, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline”. My advice as a business owner is to make your dream career a reality by creating a well-thought-out plan with a reasonable deadline. Stick to that plan until you reach your goal.”

Want to learn more about the people behind Saylor Academy and our mission to provide free education to all? Check out our other employee interviews here and learn more about our mission here! You can find all information on our courses here.