Starting Your Career with Five Lifelong Strategies

Here my advice for those starting their career. It is based on what I have learned during my long career.


For me in order of importance behind faith and family, comes work. I love to work. It does not make a difference whether it is physical or mental. I learned early on that work is part of who I am. It has allowed me to use my gifts and talents for good.

In the “work for pay” arena, I liked all of my jobs through my entire life. If I did not like what I was doing, I would not do it. For the most part, I have been lucky to be able to choose my jobs. I rarely put my professional life above my family and never above my faith. I worked to earn money to help my family live a good life and give them some opportunities that I did not have.

I loved teaching, coaching, working at Xerox, managing people and working in my own business. Physical, mental, for pay, not for pay, and volunteer work are all fulfilling for me because I always find a higher purpose in it. No purposeful work is too menial for me. Based on what I know and learned, here is some advice about work.

Working Hard Is Important

Current thinking is that working “hard” is not as important as is working “smart”. That may be true but putting in a sustained and strong effort is essential. When I started as a sales person at Xerox, I had no business experience or natural aptitude for sales. I had a good personality but knew very little about sales or business.

I observed successful people, studied my company, its products and my customers. I then managed my time and territory efficiently. I have found people who succeed, work not only smart but very hard.

Identify Smart People and Then Stay in Touch

I received good advice when I was young. Identify winners. Seek out successful people. Through my work life, I found there were plenty of people who did not perform due to bad work habits, weak commitment or incompetence. I tried to minimize my interactions with them. I looked for people that I felt were talented, shared my values and whom I could learn from.

It was these successful people, who helped me through my career and allowed me to start my own business. To this day, I receive business opportunities from individuals that I identified early in my career and have maintained a long-term relationship. 

Treat Your Job as A Profession

With technology advancing at a fast pace, expect that what you are doing today will likely change multiple times before your finish your career. One should think of not only what is needed today but what skills will be needed for the future. Many of the skills I learned earlier in my career has helped me to publish over 60 articles and speak extensively at business forums.

As I entered the business world, I got my MBA and worked hard to advance my marketing, managerial, financial and interpersonal skills every chance I had. It is these skills that enabled me to change jobs, advance my career and become a Divisional President at Sharp Electronics. These experiences allowed me to pursue my dream of running my own business. It also created many good and some cases more lucrative opportunities through my working life that I chose NOT to pursue.

Activities are not Accomplishments

A way to ensure success is to consistently deliver results. It is amazing how many employees go through the day completing tasks and activities that have no impact on their or their company’s results. Identifying what the company’s goals are, what your boss’s boss objectives are and setting lofty goals for yourself and then meeting them, will make you invaluable.

Though I always set goals for myself, I feel now that perhaps I did not set them high enough since I always made my goals for performance and career advancement. Maybe I could have even done better. My advice is to set lofty goals for your personal and business life.

Good People Finish First

Business people are constantly being presented with ethical challenges. Whether it is expense reports, marketing tactics or personnel decisions, I have constantly asked myself if what I was doing was consistent with my family, personal and religious values.

Most successful people that I admire are good people. The adage that “nice guys finish last” is not true. I believe that people that I have worked with through the years felt that I could be trusted to do the right things. It helped me to be a successful manager and executive. No one wants to follow a dishonest or unethical leader. I like to think I was tough and ambitious while being ethical and moral.

I have followed this advice for my whole life. All and all I have really enjoyed my personal and professional life. I seldom made decisions about my career or personal life based solely on money. I just wanted to make an impact, earn enough money to move my family forward and do good deeds.

By sticking to my core principles and working hard toward my personal and career goals, I have been afforded the freedom to work for companies and markets that I enjoy while earning a good income with a minimum of debt. Maureen and I live a fulfilled and financially secure life.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (see our web site at is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156.