3 top career happiness lessons from senior citizens

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4 Worst Pieces of Career Advice to Avoid

When it comes to career advice, we often turn to professors and scientists. Or, just as often, we ask business icons for the secrets of their success. These are fine sources of insight, of course, but there's one other repository of career wisdom we too often overlook- senior citizens.

With their working lives behind them, retirees are in an ideal position to report on what worked for them, and what didn't. More than mid-career strivers, they can take a long view on career happiness to see what really leads to lasting satisfaction and examine various strategies over the course of decades to see which withstand the test of time.

Which is why Cornell professor Karl Pillemer spoke to more than 1,500 elders about their professional lives, soliciting their best tips for those at the beginning of their journey. Pillmer recently outlined three key takeaways for Psychology Today.

1. Choose an intrinsically rewarding career.

When it comes to choosing a career, many of the elders had little to say about salary and status. Instead, they advised young people to focus more on the intrinsic rewards of any particular path, if they're aiming for lifelong happiness.

"They say it's vastly preferable to take home a smaller paycheck and enjoy what you do than to slog through a job you dislike and live for the weekends," reports Pillemer.

RELATED: 5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation

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5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation
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5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation

Take advantage of your college career center
Most universities offer career coaching from trained professionals who specialize in development and advancement. Whether or not you have an idea of your career plans post-college, it can be beneficial to take a few hours out of your day and set up an appointment with one of the counselors. Many times, these professionals can review and help you tailor your resumé and cover letter. To top it off, because of their experience and networks in various industries, counselors have the potential to connect you with hiring managers.

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Begin creating and using your network 
One of the most important aspects to finding a job is taking advantage of your professional and personal network. Your connections can vary from your family members and friends to your professors and alumni. If you feel as if you're lacking a valuable network, however, business association events and gatherings are the best way to gain important contacts.

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Participate in recruiting and career fairs 
This piece of advice may be the most obvious, but many students fail to take advantage of it. Careers fairs orchestrated by your specific college are invaluable. They allow you to not only learn about opportunities in your respective career, but it also allows you the opportunity to network with hiring managers and employers of the companies present.

Use your social media wisely 
It goes without saying that we live in a social media world. Everything you do online can be tracked, so it's important to make sure you are representing your personality and style accurately, and in the best possible light -- you never know who may be looking at your page.


 
Always follow up  
With the advancement of modern technology, most job applications are done online. Because of this new process, it oftentimes makes it harder to find the person of contact to follow up with. However, you shouldn't let that initial obstacle prevent you from following up. If you can't find the name of the hiring manager directly reviewing your application, use LinkedIn to do a search of the next best person to reach out to. Many potential employees miss out on interviews by not being proactive and sending follow up emails.
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2. Say yes.

You don't have to have decades of experience to understand this simple principle (one 20-something CEO shared essentially the same piece of advice here on Inc.com), but it was definitely something the elders Pillemer spoke to stressed.

"At work you should embrace new challenges at every turn, and say yes as often as possible. Among of the most frequently reported regrets about work are those times when opportunity knocked and someone didn't open the door," he writes, summing up their comments.

3. Focus on EQ.

"If you want to feel good about your life when you're elderly, you need to hone your social skills now," insists Pillemer. "The elders I spoke with came from hundreds of different occupations and employers. They've seen people succeed at work and other people crash and burn. Why those very different outcomes? They told me this: No matter how talented someone is, no matter how brilliant--you must have interpersonal skills to succeed."

Still looking for more advice on how to set yourself on the road to lifelong personal fulfillment? Check out Pillemer's post for insightful quotes from some of the seniors he spoke with. Or learn about common regrets of 20-somethings or actions you should take before you turn 30 to set yourself up for later success here on Inc.com

RELATED: The best cities for recent graduates

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Best cities for recent graduates
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Best cities for recent graduates

Cincinnati, Ohio 
Average Starting Annual Salary: $48,348
Unemployment Rate: 4.9 percent

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Raleigh, North Carolina
Average Starting Annual Salary: $48,609
Unemployment Rate: 4.8 percent

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Austin, Texas
Average Starting Annual Salary: $50,035
Unemployment Rate: 3.7 percent

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Washington, DC
Average Starting Annual Salary: $51,310
Unemployment Rate: 4.9 percent

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Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota
Average Starting Annual Salary: $49,950
Unemployment Rate: 4.1 percent

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Sioux Falls, South Dakota 
Average Starting Annual Salary: $43,849
Unemployment Rate: 3.9 percent

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Fargo, North Dakota
Average Starting Annual Salary: $44,163
Unemployment Rate: 3.0 percent

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Madison, Wisconsin
Average Starting Annual Salary: $51,163
Unemployment Rate: 3.9 percent 

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Atlanta, Georgia
Average Starting Annual Salary: $48,991
Unemployment Rate: 5.3 percent 

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Seattle, Washington 
Average Starting Annual Salary: $54,024
Unemployment Rate: 4.4 percent

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Anyone out there in the twilight years of their career want to share advice for those just getting started?

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