The Career Lessons I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

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By Tony Valdivieso, CareerBuilder writer

It's a statement you know you've said to yourself before: "If I could go back five/ten years, I would change X, Y and Z."

You probably have a handful of changes you would make, know some questions you would answer differently, and have actions you'd take a lot sooner. And you've probably imagined how different your current situation would be.

If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, you may bring up the idea of investing in Apple or Google. You might toy with the idea of telling yourself to invent Facebook. You may even decide to give yourself the winning lottery numbers for all those jackpots you've missed (no future judgment). But what lessons from the working world would you pass along? How would you ready yourself for your future career?

This week, we posed the same basic question to the members of our social communities: If you could give your younger self one piece of professional advice, what would it be?

Here are just a few of the common threads that emerged:

1. Focus on establishing connections.
"Network! Who you know will open doors to what you know." – Louise O., via LinkedIn

"Maintain a high-quality network of peers. You might not need it at your current job, but it will be instrumental in helping you find your next one." – Kim S., via Google+

"Join your industry associations and be an active member. Grow your network, become a subject matter expert and contribute content, and regularly refresh your résumé to include accomplishments that support your professional value/brand." – Deborah O., via LinkedIn

"Don't burn bridges." @imjusttrynaeat, via Twitter

2. Think about what success means to you.
"Success is not measured by how much money you make, but how you inspire others to notice what you do because your career choices never got in the way of your life choices." – Ilada W., via Facebook

"At the end of the day, despite everything that was said and done, it's YOU that has to look in the mirror and say, "I made this decision. I can live with it." – Steve R., via Facebook

3. Be easy to work with.
"Be sincerely nice. People remember that." – Paul M., via Google+

4. Just do you.
"Go with your passion. Don't let anyone else talk you out of what you really want to do. Listen to what people say but, in the end, follow what is in your heart." – Lori S., via Google+

"Do not be discouraged by critics. Fight harder for success because at the end of it all you control your destiny." – Nene S., via Facebook

"Do what you love." – Pierre G., via Facebook

One thing to remember: You don't have to go back in time to make changes for the better. You're in the driver seat, and you don't need to be driving a DeLorean DMC-12 with a flux capacitor to improve your current situation.

Take a moment to ask yourself what career advice you'd hope to impart on your younger self. But don't stop there -- we have a few follow-up questions for you: Am I currently taking my own advice? Why not? How am I going to change that?

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