When starting out in our careers in our twenties, we’re often incredibly ambitious and impatient to climb to the top. The ironic thing is that we’re unlikely to reach the heady heights of our dreams until our late thirties, early forties. However, our twenties are our platform to reach the top of the career ladder. We have to use them wisely.
Update your CV regularly
This is a step that is so often overlooked when we have succeeded in gaining a job. Just because we have been hired in a role that doesn’t mean we should neglect our CVs until we’re looking for the next opportunity. Update your CV regularly with any new skills that you have developed in your current role and with any achievements you may have attained.
We all hate it, but networking is essential to developing your career. Look for events that interest you within your field of work. Share that you will be attending ahead of time on your social media. By announcing that you’re going, you will attract the attention of others who are also attending but may be shy, or interested in meeting new people at said event, but wouldn’t have known to approach you otherwise. When you’re at the event make sure you have a few questions and conversation starters prepped. These can be as simple as compliments on a person’s outfit or a comment on a panel, to asking why someone is attending that evening. Is it for work purposes? Are they interested in the speaker’s work? Break the ice and the rest will come easily.
Get business cards
You never know when you will need them, and you’ll always regret not having them when the opportunity arose. There’s nothing as unprofessional as having to write down your email address on a napkin or spelling it aloud for someone to write in their notes. A business card is the solution to all of this, and doubles by making you seem extra professional in your role.
Look into mentorship schemes
If you’re looking to develop your career, or indeed help someone else develop, look into mentorship schemes. I have been party to both ends of mentorship, both as a mentee and mentor. You get a lot out of it. From tips on CV design to get a better understanding of your career path, a mentorship allows you to network and learn new things about your field of work in an informal and un-pressured manner.
Don’t be afraid to hype yourself. From self-nomination for industry awards to sharing work that you’re proud of – shout about it! No one else is going to blow your own trumpet for you. Get over your modesty and hype yourself, big time. There’s a difference between being arrogant and being proud of your achievements. When you get a promotion, let people know. When you’re looking for work or are interested in learning a new skill, reach out to people and ask.
Action your mistakes
Mistakes are going to happen during your career, but don’t beat yourself up. It’s likely that someone else will do this anyway, so don’t double your trouble. Instead, action your mistakes. What caused you to make that mistake? Did you rush a task, did you not have the knowledge to implement it well, were you unsure but didn’t ask for help? All of these things can be fixed, but if you don’t action it, then you won’t learn from it, and you’re likely to make the same mistakes again. Also, the more you own up to the mistakes, you make the more professional you end up looking as you clearly care enough about your career to want to do better.
Farrah Storr, the editor in chief of Elle wrote a whole book on embracing discomfort within the workplace and sadly, and also wonderfully, it is something that we all must do. If you don’t think you can do something, do it anyway. Discomfort zones are often where we learn the most, and end up achieving the most as well. From putting yourself forward for a job that you’re not sure you’re qualified for, to leading a project for the first time. You’re actually quite likely to succeed, and if you don’t, at least you tried, and next time won’t be uncomfortable.
Dress to impress yourself
Work does not need to be a fashion show, but it is worth dressing to impress yourself. If you feel confident in what you wear you’re more likely to feel confident in the workplace, and therefore likely to impress others. Also, if you’re comfortable in what you wear and how you look, you’re less likely to compare yourself to others in your field who may seem to have it all sorted in life and ooze confidence. It’s all a facade. The sooner you learn this, the more you can focus on the work you produce rather than comparing yourself to others.
Always be prepared
If you know that you’re about to come into a busy period of work, or you have a ton of meetings coming up, make sure that you’re prepared. There’s nothing worse than feeling under-prepared and having to wing it in a professional environment. You, your colleagues and/or clients will all feel better if you have everything prepared ahead of time. Prioritise your time and always be ready to say no if a more pressing concern calls for it.
If you don’t love your job, change it
This may seem like such a flaky piece of advice but it is something I stick to. If you don’t love your job, it is time to leave. There are always good days and bad days at work. When the bad days out-weigh the good, it is time to get your updated CV and network contacts out from the file on your computer and send out some CVs to the next position up or to another company. You will spend a majority of your life at work. If you don’t enjoy it when you begin your career in your twenties, you’re unlikely to love it in your thirties and forties either.