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My Most Important Piece of Advice For Anyone

college advice
Kira Smithson
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Published on August 29, 2014

There is a lot of advice out there in the world aimed at college students, recent graduates and those transitioning between job fields. If you are reading this now, it’s probably because you are in the process of gathering such information, determined to make the ‘best’ decision possible about which advice to follow, and how to proceed in the quest for your dream job.

Along this journey, I hope you will consider one piece of advice that I firmly believe is the most valuable bit of counsel that I have to offer anyone. Go with your gut. That’s it. Plain and simple.  You’ve heard it before, and you’ll certainly hear it again. It may seem trite or ‘too easy’ for a generation of overachievers (including myself!). Still, I cannot stress the importance of this seemingly small idea.

I admit that it can be difficult to decipher the difference between all of your different internal voices. But when you really take the time to step away from the chaos of job hunting and find a few quiet minutes to reflect, it can quickly become an easy practice to figure out which is which.

In those moments, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the difference between listening to my head, my heart, and my gut? What is each voice saying?”  To help you think through this process, and explain what I mean, I will give you the follow example:

  • My head tells me to follow logic, job A pays more than job B, even though I like the environment of job B better, so I should take job A to be more financially sound.

  • My heart says to follow my feelings and those momentary whims of emotion. How did you feel at each of those job interviews? Recruiter for job A was stiff and cold, and the Recruiter for job B seemed friendly, so I should choose job B because it will be more comfortable and I’ll enjoy going to work.

  • And now my gut…My gut makes no sense. There is no rhyme or reason. There is no predictable measure to help me try to anticipate what my gut will say, whether it will side with my head or my heart. Frequently, it does something completely rogue, like tell me to wait for a job C (even though job C hasn’t phoned me for an interview yet).

When I was working on the corporate side of the film and TV industry a few years back, I was looking for a change. I wanted to focus full-time on Recruiting, and specifically work with college students and entry level artists and production candidates. I had the opportunity to interview for a position that was available with the college outreach program that my studio (DreamWorks Animation) was in the process of growing at that time. I loved the team! I loved the mission, and the studio even flew me up to the Bay Area to check out the PDI offices where I would be working if I decided to accept the position and transfer.

I had a great trip up to the Bay–met even MORE amazing people at our sister office, and spent my weekend driving around San Francisco, scoping out the different neighborhoods, trying to decide where I would want to live.

It was exciting and I thought it was exactly the change that I wanted. Yet, even before I went up to the Bay, I had this little voice inside saying, “This isn’t for you. This isn’t what you really want.” I was puzzled. It was a fantastic opportunity, I was basically a shoo-in, being an internal employee, and the department supervisor loved me. All logistical signs pointed to ‘go’! So I did my best to ignore that still small voice, to convince myself that I was just anxious about moving and trying something new.

But as I went through the salary negotiations, that little voice got louder. And on top of the voice, I started to feel anxious and even had bizarre stomach cramps and muscle spasms.

To make a long story short, I ended up not taking the job. And I am SO glad that I didn’t! I stayed long enough at that studio job to pay off the rest of my student loans (I had a goal! See my previous post!), and have been blessed to remain debt free ever since. Though consulting can be an uncertain career path, in terms of how to plan finances, I have absolutely loved the past 3 years of my life!

There have been numerous challenges to be sure, but every time that I have followed that gut instinct, I’ve come out okay in the end, with a result I feel proud of, regardless of the difficulty I’ve had to face.

As much as I wish there were an easy answer to that question you’ve been wrestling with, there is NO perfect advice for how to live your life.

So before I write any further articles, I thought it was important to share this simple piece of advice. Surely, at some point, something I say will directly contradict another piece of advice you got from an equally informed source. That’s when you have to decide ultimately what is right for YOU. Because, at the end of the day, that is who has to live with the choices you make. Not your guidance counselor, not your parents, and not your boss.

Just you.

Whether you believe that small ‘gut’ voice is the voice of God, the universe, or your intuition, I sincerely believe that every person possesses such a voice and the ability to listen to it.

Please take this advice for what it’s worth. And if you don’t agree with listening to your gut, if your ‘gut’ says that is wrong—then let my bit of advice just float away. And you will have affirmed the importance of having peace over a decision, no matter where you believe that  guidance comes from.

Kira Smithson

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