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When someone tells you: “You work a year for her, and you can get a job at any magazine you want. A million girls would kill for this job.” Your imagination may start running wild to the end of said year when you can start ‘calling the shots’ and have your pick of jobs. The quote may be from a movie – Devil Wears Prada but its sentiment is very real, especially if you’ve just graduated and are ready to kick start your career.
Admittedly, since you’re young and just beginning, you’re bound to make mistakes along your career path. Here are 20 important lessons for the 20-something you out there so that you can start off on a better footing
1. Ask yourself 3 very important questions
As we’ve explored in our previous article, the 3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding a Career, be brutally truthful with yourself and make sure that this first step you make in your career is your choice, will excite you and a decision that you’ll fight for. This way, it goes beyond just following your dreams and passion but also is a decision informed by practical needs.
2. Say YES more
When freelance BBC radio producer, Danny Wallace overheard a stranger said these three words on a bus, he took it to the extreme and challenged himself to say “Yes” to everything for one year. After chronicling his experiences in his novel Yes Man, many outstanding executives began adopting this philosophy – on a smaller scale and with great success. As the 100th richest person in the world, ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt succinctly noted:
Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference. Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, be the optimist, see the glass full, be the one everyone comes to. Yes is what keeps us all young.
Say “Yes” more and you’ll soon embark on an eventful career path.
3. Embrace failure
If it’s good enough for Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Stefan Sagmeister, it’s undoubtedly a vital lesson for you. As entrepreneur Jenny Fleiss said:
Embrace failure. Missteps and roadblocks are inevitable but are ultimately an opportunity to learn, pivot, and go after your goals with new perspective.
Take this further by acknowledging and learning from your mistakes when you’ve inadvertently made them. This will only increase your value in your boss’ eyes. If not, then this may not be the work environment that you can thrive in.
4. Be open-minded
I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.
Elon Musk’s words should resonate with you as you start your career with the inevitability that you would make mistakes in your new workplace. Be receptive to criticisms so that you can constantly improve yourself.
5. Get up, dress up, show up
Founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, Alexa Von Tobel, live by these words and so should you. No matter how the previous day ended, every day is a new start so long as you get up, dress up and show up. Be excited to be present for work because every day is an opportunity for you to earn, learn, improve and advance your career.
Don’t endanger what’s important for the superfluous.
Having just starting your career, you may not have the experience but you certainly would have the common sense to use good judgement and avoid doing and saying things in a fit of anger or temporary moment of pleasure. As Warren Buffet noted, “You need to detach yourself emotionally” and be mindful so that you can distinguish between what matters and what’s unnecessary.
6. Treat others the way you want to be treated
Simply put, you’ll not only make the world a better place to live in but will also improve your networking skills. This is especially important in a world where advancements in technology brought about smaller networks in a more connected world.
7. Upgrade, update, uplift
Elevate your skill sets by consistently keeping up with the trends of the industry of your interest and ensure you’re kept abreast of the latest news so that you’ll prove to be invaluable to your organisation.
8. Practice makes perfect
As master motivator puts it: “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment”. Being in your twenties, you’ll have the chance to perfect your focus as you advance your career.
9. Be conscientious about your career plan
Being diligent in creating a specific and realistic timeline will make it easier for you to map out a goal-oriented career plan. Use this simple tool to chart your career progression.
10. Find a mentor
Whether your goal is to advance in any organisation or start your own a business, a suitable mentor is invaluable to your success because he’ll provide you with insights that you can’t get anywhere else. You can find a mentor from your company itself or hire an Executive Life Coach externally.
11. It’s what and who you know
Networking has transcended from the commonplace events and conferences. Maximise your presence online and offline so that you can exchange ideas with likeminded people, gain advantageous connections that will benefit your work and even generate income opportunities.
12. Work smart and harder
It goes without saying that since there’s only 24 hours in a day, you should work smart but also harder. As you’re only beginning your career, take full advantage of what your company offers and upgrade your skill sets within and beyond your role. Make sure you gain as much experience as possible and create opportunities for your role to grow within the company and yourself to advance in your career.
13. Cultivate your personal brand
The effectiveness and efficiency of technology means that there is no time like today to cultivate your personal brand, especially online. Make use of such social sites as LinkedIn, Opportunity, PartnerUp and AngelList to nurture your professional online presence and gradually establish yourself as a thought leader in your field of expertise.
14. Bite more than you can chew
Being in your twenties means that you should take advantage of this time to say “Yes” as much as possible in expanding your horizons. This is also the chance for you to find and do the job you will eventually love.
15. Be patient
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of giant Internet-based company, Alibaba, has constantly preached the virtue of patience, especially in your professional endeavours. Be inspired by his persistence and be patient so that you’ll learn the lessons you need to be successful.
16. Know your worth in dollars
It’s well and true that since you’re just starting out, you lack the work experience despite your sterling academic results and/or internship experiences. However, this doesn’t mean that you should be underpaid. Know your true value by studying what the market rate is for the position you’re applying for and be realistic when negotiating your salary package.
17. Be on-the-ball with your finances
As you embark on the beginning of your career, your finances may be closely tied with your family’s support. One way to mature and advance is to ensure that you live within your means and avoid the pitfalls that many 20-something encounter. Remember what Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma’s patience achieved for him and you’ll be on your way to fiscal responsibility in no time.
18. Be positive and look forward
Listening to his mother certainly bode well for The Virgin Group founder and chairman, Richard Branson. Always moving on to the next thing and avoid dwelling on mistakes will help you learn and be better faster.
19. Know that your time is limited
Last but least,
let’s take a page out of one of the greatest innovator of the 21st century, Steve Jobs and understand that
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.