Career Advice to My 22-year-old Self

career advice to my 22-year-old self

In the film Click, Adam Sandler plays an architect who finds a universal remote that allows him to fast-forward and rewind to different parts of his life. Although a flawed film, I appreciate the “What if you had the chance to leapfrog through time to change your past?” concept (as well as Sandler, always). Questions such as “What if?” allow you to imagine different scenarios. Rewinding is such an inciting literary construct.

Whether it’s in a film, such as Peggy Sue Got Married, where Peggy Sue, played by Kathleen Turner, after fainting at a high school reunion, wakes to find herself in her own past with an opportunity for change. Or it’s celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey or Mayim Bialik, giving advice to their younger selves, or studies of hundreds of participants addressing this scenario, the opportunity to advise our younger selves is a meaningful experience.

On social media, I posted the question–“What’s the first piece of career advice you’d give to your 22 year-old self?” The dozens of respondents, who have found success and fulfilling careers, don’t possess a magical remote (as far as I know), but their enthusiastic responses signaled something fascinating. Examined life experiences can be rich with wisdom that allow us to construct a picture of an ideal self. Here is career advice that might spare you from thinking, “If I knew then what I know now….” 

Some Career Advice to My 22-year-old Self

Meena Khalili, associate professor, School of Visual Art + Design, University of South Carolina

“You don’t need to say yes to everything. A professional ‘no’ does not burn a bridge, unprofessional people do. If a client wants to work with you, they will find a way.”

Todd Greer, PhD, executive director, Innovation Portal

“Stay humble. Be Curious.”

Dr. Barbara Blum, clinical psychologist

“Be aware of the storms and search for the rainbow. Follow your passions and keep a trusted group of friends to correct you if you go off course.”

Fernando Mattei, creative director, BBH New York

“Don’t stop exercising because of work. You catch up on your career. Sometimes you cannot catch up on your health.”

Andrea Harris, LMSW

“Get your foot in the door, even if it’s not your dream job. View it as a stepping stone. This can be a confidence boost. Your résumé may not fully reflect who you are and what talents you have.”

Ben Ivey, associate professor of graphic design, Mississippi College

“Stay in touch with old teachers. They always know people who can get you a job.”

Deborah Ceballos, founder and partner, Square Melon Communications

“There is something you are better at than most. When you find it, lead with it.”

Liese Zahabi, assistant professor of design

“Try things out, and don’t put yourself on a timeline. It’s just as useful to try something and find out what you DON’T want to do or DON’T like as it is to find the thing you DO want to do or DO like. Reach out and connect with others in and out of your field…don’t feel like you have to figure everything out for yourself and on your own. Not only will others help you on your journey but you just never know when something you do or say will immensely help someone else on their journey.”

Nancy Novick, writer

“Don’t worry too much about sticking to a particular timeline for success, take some chances professionally, and be sure to let people see what you have to offer”

Stephanie Cunningham, professor of graphic design, Florida Atlantic University-Fort Lauderdale


Prof. Vanessa B. Cruz

“There’s enough success in the world for everyone! Just because someone has success doesn’t mean there’s less opportunity for you to also achieve success.”

Danny Virasawmi, web designer and developer

“People change. You will change. Don’t be afraid of learning new skills because it wasn’t what you thought you would be doing.”

Daniel Cruz, senior motion designer at

“Don’t wait for opportunities to come to your doorstep…Do not be afraid to network and make connections. Take classes; yes, take classes. I can’t underestimate how important it is to take online classes after college to learn new skills…especially with the ever-changing tech we use. And, never forget how far you’ve come.”

remote learning

Yours truly . . .

“Find a strong sponsor at work who will advocate for you.”

And to augment this career advice fest, here’s some from people with whom you are likely familiar.

Jennifer Lopez (as told to MindFood.)

“I’d tell myself to love myself because when we love ourselves we make good choices. When we don’t, we are not focused and we make bad choices. I learned that lesson the hard way.”

Nikky Finney, 2011 National Book Award winner for poetry (as told to

“Watch your life as if it were a film. Absorb everything. What you see, hear, and feel will stamp every alphabet of your work.”

Rita Moreno (as told to HOLA!)

“Stop feeling like you don‘t deserve anything. You have value. Whatever it is that you are has value and worth.”

I’ll conclude with advice about something we all dread in our careers–losing a job–and dream of–winning an award. When actor Amanda Seyfried received an award alongside Oprah Winfrey, Kate Winslet and Lupita Nyong’o, she said, “I wish I could tell my younger self, the one that was fired from her first soap opera for being too scared, ‘It’s okay, because if you love what you do and you have the skill and the passion, you can continue to do it throughout your life and maybe get some recognition alongside Oprah.’”

This guest post was authored by Robin Landa

Robin Landa is a distinguished professor at Kean University and a globally recognized ideation expert. She is a well-known “creativity guru” and a best-selling author of books on ideation, creativity, branding, advertising, and design. She has won numerous awards and The Carnegie Foundation counts her among the “Great Teachers of Our Time.” She is the author of articles in HBR Ascend and Fast Company and twenty-five books including Strategic Creativity: A Business Field Guide to Advertising, Branding, and Design and The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential. Now Robin is writing a book titled A Career is a Promise: Finding Purpose, Success, and Fulfillment.


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Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.