Practical advice for people in their first job

A panel of wise women and men in front of a large group of graduates, all keen to learn more about how they could become successful in real life with a real job.

The last question of the facilitator: “What is your practical advice to this group of young people? Can you mention a couple of things you would have liked to have done early in your career?”. The only thing I could think off was: 10 fingers typing, because I am sure that would have saved me a lot of time.
Now I have given it some more thought, and here is my list.

  1. 10 fingers typing
    If you are a graduate student, you are probably already too late. You learn 10 fingers typing best when you are around 12 years old. But please, make an attempt; it will save you a lot of time.
  2. Keep your inbox empty
    Maybe this advice is also too late, as e-mail is slowly disappearing. Keeping your inbox empty will give you a lot of ease of mind. The practice is simple. Only look at your e-mail a couple of times per day. Do not create a pile of folders for all your projects. When you read an
    e-mail take one of the following actions: trash the e-mail, take action immediately (like responding with “yes’), forward the e-mail to someone else to take action or move it to a To-Do folder. When no action is required, but you want to keep the mail for future reference, store it in an archive folder. When you want to retrieve an e-mail, use the search function.
  3. Write notes
    Writing helps you to process, and it helps you to capture your thoughts. It seems to work better when you write than when you type. Use A5 notebooks, like the one from Moleskine.
  4. Find a pen that suits you well
    Since five years I use the Papermate Flair M. For me this is the best pen there is. You can use it for writing and drawing. They are cheap and still available.
  5. Invest in a good rucksack
    A rucksack seems to be the best way to transport your little mobile office. You also keep your hands free, and that increases your safety.
  6. Use Evernote
    Evernote did not exist when I started working, but I wish it had. Use Evernote as your second memory, accessible from all your devices.
    When you read a restaurant review in the newspaper, make a photo and capture it in Evernote before you forget.
  7. Practice Clean Desk
    My first job was in a company working a lot for military clients. Clean desk was mandatory. “A clean desk, a clean mind” is the saying, and it works for me. Once you get used to the practice, it is easy to stick to the routine.
  8. Do not skip lunch
    Once you start skipping lunch, you are on a sliding scale. Lunch is the time to clean your head, to connect with your team and maybe to meet some new people as well. Add a walk to the lunch, and you will be more productive during the second half of the day.
  9. Use public transport
    It looks as if it takes more time than going by car, but often this is not true. Your time in the train or bus is more productive. You can read the paper or a book or process some e-mails. You can also meet some people. You safe money, as you do not need a car, and you get more exercise, as you have to walk to and from the station.
  10. Sleep well
    Make sure you get enough sleep. People who have slept well, get a lot more done (and are more pleasant company).


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