Show ambition, take initiative, leap tall buildings in a single bound.
It's the savvy employee who understands that getting off on the right foot early in his or her career means getting to the desired level, position and salary sooner rather than later. Often, younger employees who are just starting out in the work world feel they have plenty of time to get ahead and don't focus on career development. On one hand, it is true that you have more work years ahead of you than an employee who already has twenty years of work experience under their belt. On the other hand, how you use your time early on in your career can determine how quickly you advance and stand out among your peers.
In fact, with a dose of ambition and desire to learn, you might find that you move ahead faster than those with more years of experience who lack the ambition to go above and beyond—they simply go to work, do their job and go home. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with that approach, because, for some, that might be exactly what they need to support other priorities in their life. For others, however, if getting ahead and advancing early in their career is a goal, then showing ambition and taking initiative will help them move mountains and leap over rivers.
Here are some steps you can take to jumpstart career development in your twenties, so you're living the life you desire early on and beyond.
1. Keep learning
To get ahead in your career during your twenties, develop a yearning for knowledge. Take a night class, find some online courses, or go to weekend seminars to help you develop new skills and knowledge that will set you apart from others in your age group. If you have a college degree, you're already one step ahead of the many who don't—but still, choose to continue learning after you receive your diploma and land your first job to stay ahead.
2. Consider a Master's degree
This isn't for everyone, and there is a debate about whether or not there are too many unemployable people with Master's degrees these days—specifically MBAs. It matters what type of degree you're getting, and what you plan on doing with it. The fact that only eight percent of Americans hold a Master's degree supports this. Many think they will go back at a later time and get a Master's–and some do–but for many, life happens and a Master's degree falls by the wayside. Weigh the pros and cons of what makes the most sense for you in your career development.
3. Purchase your domain name
To get ahead, you need to purchase any domain name you might want to use in the future if it is still available. Then, you can make a personal website to showcase your work. You can use a site like Domain's Priced Right to see if your name is available. If it's not, try to find something close to it. In addition to the .com extension, there's now a .me extension that you might be able to secure if .com is not available. In fact, if both are available, consider purchasing them both, as well as different spellings of your name that people might use. It only costs around ten dollars a year for a domain name, so it's worth buying it now, so it's available when you need it. Having your domain name will help you build your online presence and brand.
4. Build your online presence and brand
The Internet and social media allow us to showcase our skills, professional accomplishments and professional opinions relatively easy. We have the ability to create an "expert" persona that other professionals turn to for guidance and advice. If you understand this in your twenties, then by the time you're in your thirties, you could have an online following to boost your career status, expand your network, and increase your reach and ability to help others. At the same time, you want to be mindful of the personal brand you're creating.
Build a simple website, be active on professional chat boards and social media, and even post simple videos with tips of the trade or advice to boost your online presence and brand to get a headstart in your twenties.
5. Track your work accomplishments
It's much easier to update your resume, complete performance appraisals, request salary increases and have honest discussions with your supervisor about performance when you have a clear record of your professional accomplishments. As a manager, it was also helpful when my team tracked their accomplishments, as it was sometimes difficult to remember everything my employees accomplished over time, as is the case for many managers.
6. Focus on effective communication
If you put even a little bit of energy into this skill, you'll be miles ahead of others who are just now entering the workforce. Sending emails that look like texts with shorthand and abbreviations is not considered appropriate professional communication at work. Also, because the younger generations utilize their phones, texting, and social media to communicate frequently, their ability to communicate effectively face-to-face has not fully developed.
If you learn how to communicate professionally across generations at work early on, you will stand out from your peers.Consider even taking an effective communication course to improve your skills and effectively communicate with others at work. Lynda.com offers some free and paid courses on this subject.
7. Identify a mentor
Studies show that having a mentor improves chances of work success for youth—and not just by a little bit. Per Mentoring.org, young adults at risk of falling off track are 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions if they have a mentor.
Mentors can help you navigate the nuances of the work environment and problem solve when needed. They can also help you deal with challenging relationships or guide you in how to increase your productivity and network. The list goes on as far as the value added in identifying a mentor early in your career. Mentor type relationships often develop naturally, or you might choose to seek out a mentor.
8. Hire a career coach
A career coach can help you identify the right cultural and work fit for long-term success. They can also help you navigate the work arena, similar to a mentor, but often with a more unbiased perspective because they aren't personally involved with your workplace or life.
9. Build your network
As you advance in your career, need a mentor or are looking to change jobs, you'll be glad you took this tip to heart. The sooner you begin networking, the sooner you'll begin building the web you can reach out to, and vice versa, to support and help you throughout your career. Attend industry events, community events, and network online via social media sites like LinkedIn.
10. Ask for advice from your elders and more experienced co-workers
Generational differences are evident in the workplace, but all generations need to meet in the middle when it comes to work preferences. Often, it's not about right vs. wrong, but a difference in opinion between generations as to how to complete work. With all that said, as an entry-level employee in your twenties, you have a ton of valuable knowledge at your fingertips if you realize it—the most experienced hires in your organization can be a great resource to help you within your organization, as well as with career choices in general. These might also be the relationships that naturally evolve to be mentor-mentee relationships.
11. Show gratitude and be humble
People like to support and work with those who get that we're all in this together. When you show appreciation for others work and help, and also appreciate that you don't have all the answers, people will notice and be more willing to help you and recommend you to others. Be confident in your ability, but be humble in the fact that you don't know everything and can learn from others (especially early in your career).
If you take even just a couple of these career development tips and apply them in your twenties at work, you'll be well on your way to jump-start a career trajectory for which you can be proud of.
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