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As the head of HR for LinkedIn, the professional social network with more than 400 million active users around the world, Pat Wadors has had many conversations about what job-seekers are looking for and what tools new employees need to succeed.
In turn, she’s used that insight to do what’s best for the people making those tools.
Wadors has paid particular attention to 20-somethings at the outset of their careers because not only does LinkedIn have a large millennial component to its workforce, but she is also the mother of three millennials.
She told Business Insider that the two pieces of advice she has for new employees is the same advice she gives her kids.
Be like Goldilocks
In the fairy tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Goldilocks tries each of the bears’ chairs, porridge bowls, and beds before she finds what she considers “just right.” Wadors thinks young professionals need to take the same approach to their careers.
“Don’t narrow your choices,” she said. “You’re acquiring a skill. You’re gaining polish. You’re learning how to problem solve. You’re learning how to navigate the business world. Every job you get. So don’t be shortsighted.”
The fact that millennials now spend an average of only three years at a job – you could call it job-hopping – doesn’t have to be interpreted in a negative way, then, as long as career switches are made for the purpose of building skills or pursuing passions rather than jumping at the first sign of a bigger paycheck.
Wadors was a guest speaker at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg graduate school for journalism and communication in February, and an interaction she had with a student in the Q&A following the presentation has stuck with her.
The student explained that she didn’t have a green card, and that if she wasn’t sponsored within the year following graduation she would have to return to her home country. She asked Wadors whether she should settle for a company that would sponsor her, even if the job itself didn’t excite her, or if she should use that year to find an ideal job for starting her career. She added that she wanted to pursue her dreams in the US because there were far fewer opportunities in her home country.
“My advice was to be pragmatic: If you choose that [less desirable] sponsorship today, you’ll have more choices tomorrow,” Wadors said. “If you dream for a year and go home and your culture at home doesn’t allow you to dream those dreams, then that is not the right course of action.”
Wadors later found out that the student not only took her advice, but embraced it, too. “She doesn’t feel like it’s cutting short her dream,” Wadors explained. “It feels like there are more opportunities.”
Put together with the Goldilocks analogy, Wadors’ advice to 20-somethings fresh out of school is to recognize that you don’t have to fully realize your career ideals from the beginning, and that keeping an open mind to all kinds of opportunities will be the true path to success.