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10 Pieces of Career Advice Cisco Employees Would Give Our 20-Year-Old Selves

San Jose Intern Welcome Event Photo

Some of our Cisco employees were excited to attend a recent event in San Jose called Internapalooza, where all the interns in the area to come together, meet each other, exchange intern stories and gather information from the “older and wiser.”

I asked some Cisco employees what advice they’d give interns – or what advice they’d tell their 20-year-old selves if they could go back in time. Here are some of their replies. Be sure to tell us in comments what advice you’d give your younger self.

Here are the top 10 responses.

  1. Work to live. Don’t live to work. This would be my personal advice – something it took me a long time to learn. You need to take time to enjoy the life you’re working to enjoy. That’s not to say that you don’t work hard, but don’t let work become your life. Believe me, you won’t be 90 and think to yourself “I wish I’d have worked more.”
  1. Expand your horizons with other cultures. A common theme was “Learn another language” or “Study abroad.” Kasia Ousch, a Cisco recruiter from Krakow, Poland, said, “I would get a diploma from overseas university or spend some more time abroad to gain more of diverse perspective.
  1. Be bold! Be brave! As Senior Director of Talent Acquisition in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Kevin Blair puts it, “Don’t depend on everything learned at school, experiential learnings are key to your early success.”
  1. Take chances! Along the lines of bravery, Cisco recruiters seemed to agree that even if you think you’re not qualified for a job, apply anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no? They might say “not now” or “we have something else coming up.” Cisco HR strategist Ray Leung advises, “It’s overcoming the obstacles in life that builds character.
  1. It’s okay to start small. Not everyone gets their dream job right out of college. But find a job related to what you want to do, or maybe not even related at all – every bit of experience is valuable. Amanda Darnell, from Cisco’s University Relations team suggests, “Know that you won’t get that “dream” job right away. Sometimes you have to earn your stripes. But also don’t settle for something that might lead you away from your end goal.”
  1. You’ve got to work for it. Nothing good comes easy, but hard work pays off. Silvia Spiva (@silviakspiva) from Cisco’s social media team, says to “embrace your inner action hero every day!” Her personal favorite is Sailor Mars! She also quotes “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten as an example of superhero-ness. “I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.
  1. Get involved. You never know where that connection will come from. Maybe you share a fandom with a hiring manager. Or maybe that Toastmasters group will give you the introduction you need. Or, if you get an internship, a few Cisco techies suggested making the most of it! “Always be open to learn and network. There is so much to learn and so many people to meet!” says Richie Chea, a Cisco business systems analyst.
  1. Get social! There’s no excuse anymore for not being a social networker. Just do it. Find something to talk about (maybe your chosen field!) and post your thoughts about it. You’d be surprised the connections you’ll make. Current HR intern Kali Pike would tell her fellow interns the same. ““Having great social pages and networking with them is a top priority for me.
  1. Be tech savvy. Want to be in marketing? Learn a bit of code. Want to be a project manager? Learn a bit of code. Want to be a coder? Learn a LOT of code – but learn a little about different languages. Know how to download an app. How to Google an answer. Carly Enarson, a program specialist for Cisco Services University Relations, reminds you, “Take as many technology classes as possible!
  1. Do what you love! This was the most resounding piece of advice. You know that Confucius saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life?” Turns out, Cisco employees agree! “I have so many friends just out of college like myself that are miserable in roles that they just do not enjoy at all. I am so much happier in life with a job I truly enjoy!” says Ana Alessandra, a Cisco marketing project specialist.

What did we miss? Tell us your advice to your younger self in comments! Or on Twitter – follow and tag @CiscoCareers.

Plus, share these tips with your networks, maybe there’s a future Cisco-nian in your midst.

Want to check out internships or full-time opportunities at Cisco? Visit our Careers site!

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  1. What’s the worst that could happen?
    Such an important question in all areas of life…career, love,sports etc. The answer certainly get people to take action.

    Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves this question.

    Thanks a lot

  2. Great advice! Planning to share it on for our NetAcad talent to read.

  3. Nice post would also like to add a quote “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated, You can not cross a chasm in two small steps”.
    Means sometimes we need to take bigger decision and bolder decisions and there is no way around.

  4. Great Points !!!!
    Another one on the line of 10 don’t try to do “work life balance” all the time – there will be times when one would take precedence than another – let that be. Cisco is a great place where it would let you make the call on how you would balance your life. Take Advantage of that and Be Happy 🙂

  5. The most useful post for me so far 😉

  6. Thanks Aiden. It’s important to work hard, but also live hard. 🙂

  7. That’s really cool suggestion; we have lost the focus of our life. Working with machines had great impact on our life.

  8. We should evaluate the fact that the organizational culture is really an important cause to enhance the employee’s career

  9. Keep up the good work Carmen, Waiting for more inspiring career Talks from you.

  10. Work for a living, Do not live to work. The sentence made me realize many things about the work that had been undertaken. And certainly from the 10 points above a lot of sentences that can build me to be better. Thanks, Greetings and success always.

  11. Great Tips, I will share this with some of the EIC talent I hire! Thanks for posting 🙂

  12. Code, code, code, that’s my mantra. A little scripting, goes a long way 🙂

  13. Best piece I ever got came from my father:

    “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”.

  14. These are great tips. I would also add – Get a Sponsor: someone in the org that can help you move your ideas and projects to the next level. I’ve had a few in my career, and they have been invaluable!

  15. Great discussion and tips. I’ve been at Cisco over 10 years – 9 as a contractor. I’ll second the technology angle – if you plan to work for a company (Cisco) who’s whole existence is technology and innovative applications of same, you must be tech savvy – even if your day job is not directly technical.
    In my opinion, it comes down to a measure of high-level internalizing of your employer’s business, what that company and all your co-workers are showing up to accomplish every day. Personal ownership, accountability, contribution, and your growth plans along the way, are what make the job interesting, and even fun. So take a networking class – what are these router things anyway? What is a virtual machine? Why is it cool? What does it enable?, etc. Oh, and get really good at Excel and specifically data manipulation, metrics, some analysis. I’d wager nearly every job role requires some facet of these, so it will come in handy.

    • Great advice Eric. 🙂 The Excel piece does seem to come in handy. 🙂

  16. That is such a great post that can give the reader a boos of energy both in the workspace and in the personal life. Great read !!!

  17. Absolutely sound advice, and something everyone needs reminding of now & again. Nothing is sacred once you publish it online – and the consequences can be quite damaging.

    • That’s a good extra piece of advice, Ivan. Make sure your online persona is not, well, crazy parties. 🙂

  18. You got the ones on my list! Excellent and fun to read!

  19. Great piece! What great advice!

  20. Great advice!! Further strengthening the advise given at CiscoLIve’s CEWN at the “Reinvigorating Your Career” panel discussion and by Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule! Be Brave, Be Bold, Expand Your Horizons, Get involved, Get Social and Take Chances…every opportunity you get, DO IT in under 5 seconds and watch as things start to happen for you!!

    • David – Mel’s 5 second rule is a great piece of advice to add. Thanks for reminding us!

  21. @Carmen Great post! All 10 pieces of advice are not only relevant/applicable and I think you perfectly set a good foundational goals for millenials to come.

    • Thanks Rehana! Heck, they might even apply to old-timers like me on occasion. 🙂