As a small experiment, I had put up a skribit sidebar where anybody can suggest what I can write about. Little did I know that it would actually be used seriously. Someone posted the topic "On how fresh graduates can learn independently and grow. Instead of waiting for the Company to help" and today, there are 9 votes on it!
To be honest, I think I am not qualified enough to answer this question. I am certainly no role model. But since 9 people have voted on it, I feel obliged to write something useful. I have jotted down some thoughts on what ideas and habits have helped me, it may not necessarily be useful for everyone. I hope these fresh graduates who voted will pick the best ideas and habits suited for them.
Character and Lifestyle
Instead of focusing on building a career, why not focus on building a character? The career will take care of itself.
- "Sow an act... reap a habit; Sow a habit... reap a character; Sow a character... reap a destiny." - George Dana Boardman
- As Cal Newport would say, "Fix the lifestyle you want. Then work backwards from there." ... Too often, we confuse the medium (lawyer, doctor, engineer, etc.) with the message (what is important to us, what we want to do). So it's far more important to figure out what you want out of life, then figure out how to achieve that rather than the other way around. And only you can figure this out for yourself.
- I would recommend reading First Things First by Stephen Covey to help you understand your priorities in life.
- Most important of all, find your inner peace. Remember that "Satisfaction is within."
Basically, you need to take initiative in what you want to achieve, no one can tell you what you have to do, life is not that simple. I'm glad the original question poser said that he/she wanted to grow "Instead of waiting for the Company to help", you've got that part right already.
I recommend reading:
- The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 2: Skills and education
- Career Advice presentation by Garr Reynolds
- How To Get A Job Like Mine by Aaron Swartz
- "Results, Jay. Results. Otherwise you can't expect rewards." -- "Vertigo" novel, by Ashok Banker
- Do deliberative practice, not just "a lot of work."
- Stick to the 10-year plan. There are no shortcuts to success.
Ultimately, you need to take action and get results. It's not enough to just plan and hope. As Morpheus would say, "There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
My personal slogan is "I read. Therefore I do. Therefore I am." If I compare myself to my school days and today, there has been a major transformation in character and outlook, and I attribute that purely to reading.
A great part of my learning also comes from writing, hence the blog, wiki, books, and twitter. It might seem like a waste of time, but I learn more by communicating. But that's just me.
- Read, Read, Read, the single advice given by Warren Buffett (one of the world's richest men)
- Tactics For Reading, by Trent Hamm
- 25 Articles Every Student Should Read
- For every hour that you read, you must gain 3 hours of experience - Scott H Young
If you don't know where to start, I would suggest The Personal MBA Reading List.
Make valuable friends. This is the most important tip I can ever give you.
Equally important, make the right kind of friends. Yes, it's tough to let go of friends who you intuitively know are not the right influence on you, but speaking from experience, it is worth it in the long run.
As a wise man once said, "Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are."
Learn Your Trade
For example, if we are talking about a software engineer:
- Debugging is the most important skill, not coding. I wish I had known this when I was in college.
- Reading is a great habit that has a side-effect that you will also have the ability to read a lot of code and build up the structure inside your head about how the code works, just like you have to imagine what is written in a book or novel.
I also recommend reading:
If you are looking for more in-depth knowledge, I would recommend taking a look at this Stack Overflow discussion.
Make A Difference
Consider this excerpt from a Business Week article:
One vocal camp even maintains that the repetitive nature of writing software code has corrupted Bangalore's intellectual spirit. "These 20-year-olds are like coolies, doing the same job over and over," says CNR Rao, a Bangalorean scientist who has been an adviser to the Indian government for decades. The software industry, he says, has turned the city into a glorified sweatshop. "Where is the innovation?" he asks. "How does this contribute to anything but greed and commerce?"
The joy of programming is the joy of building and creating something. Wouldn't it be amazing if we can build and create something useful for other people? If yes, why aren't we doing more of that? After all, there is no dearth of things that we can create.
Hopefully, I have given some food for thought here.
If this article was useful, please feel free to post suggestions on what I can write about on my skribit page.
Update on 29-Oct-2011: Also read this great article by Patrick McKenzie (a.k.a. patio11) called "Don’t Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice"