For the record, I am biased. I attended Knox College in Galesburg, I.L. and received a Russian Studies degree. When I meet someone new and they learn this tidbit, the first comment I always get is this: so what did you do with a Russian degree? Join the CIA?

This always makes me laugh, because my Russian degree has been the foundation from which I built my career. No, I never once used the Russian language in any job, but the liberal arts education that I received prepared me for the ambiguity and the complexity of the business world. Critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity have guided me as I have navigated unchartered waters. I honestly cannot imagine how I could have been better prepared for the world than having my liberal arts degree (okay, it would have been nice to have more than $500 in the bank when I graduated, too).

Any job you have can represent your unique skills to a potential employer. Tweet This Quote

I returned to Knox this week to keynote and participate in a two-day Career Success seminar. The sixty plus students in attendance came back to Knox during their winter break to learn key tips about resume writing, interviewing and transitioning from college to the real world. They were a very diverse and highly engaged group and it made me very proud to know I am a part of their extended community.

Here are the highlights of my keynote address that was titled: “Reaching the Summit: Building a Career You’re Proud Of,” (clearly, I was not an English major). Just five simple tips that will get you on the road to your “top,” whatever that “top” might be.

No Job is Too Small.
So many of us get intimidated when we hear about others who have high-powered internships and amazing first jobs, because we don’t have amazing and high-powered jobs. In my case, I had two first jobs out of Knox: I was an administrative assistant at a bank by day and a Lord & Taylor men’s department clerk at night. But both of these jobs allowed me to show initiative, work ethic and my ability to do whatever it takes. Any job you have can represent your unique skills to a potential employer.

Never forget that in the long-term, your reputation is the most important asset that you have Tweet This Quote

Flex Your Style.
This means to listen to others first and to talk second. If the boss is super analytical and you are super emotional, then play to his analytical side (just the facts) while suppressing your uber-bubbly side. In other words, if he is speaking German, learn to speak German. Don’t speak French louder!

Know Yourself.
If you have a weak spot (your Achilles’ Heel), make sure you know what it is so you can avoid letting it come out. For me, when I get a bit nervous, I tend to ramble. When I ramble, I talk about my dogs. Unfortunately, in my vast experience, most senior managers do not want to hear about my dogs!

Take the High Road.
This means to be your best you and not lower yourself to politics or gain recognition at someone else’s expense. Most people who use these tactics have only short-term goals in mind. Never forget that in the long-term, your reputation is the most important asset that you have and you want to minimize actions that harm it.

You can’t build a career on your own. Tweet This Quote

Don’t be a Superhero.
You can’t build a career on your own. I have three concepts here that will really help you. 1) Leverage your strengths. Don’t feel like you have to be good at everything, so surround yourself with people who have complementary skills. 2) Constantly grow your network of contacts because you never know when you can help someone or they can help you. 3) Develop a personal advisory board of people you trust. Being able to run your ideas by people who care about you and can be honest with you will be invaluable.

As you are following these tips, always remember to bring your “A” game. People want to be around people who are confident and passionate about what they are doing.

That is how to build a career you will be proud of. Regardless of your major.

Jane Miller

Author Jane Miller

Jane Miller is CEO of ProYo Frozen Smoothie, CEO and founder of—a career advice website—and author of Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success). She has 30 years of executive and management experience at PepsiCo, Rudi's Organic Bakery and other companies.

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