From taking risks to sorting out your finances — the sooner you start planning out your career objectives, the better. Start following these good work habits in your 20s to set a strong foundation for professional and personal success in the years to come.
1. FIND A MENTOR
Even though you are starting out in your career, it is essential to have a game plan of where you want to reach in the future. You cannot go it alone when it comes to long-term career planning. Build your own ‘board of directors’ who can give you valuable advice — these could be your family members, previous bosses, a professor or a colleague.
Bottom line: Mentors not only offer professional guidance but also emotional support. The sooner you get one, the easier it will be for you to stay focused on your goals.
2. NO RISK, NO GROWTH
Historically, men seize newer professional opportunities more often than women because they take higher risks. According to a 2008 report, men are more likely to apply for a job even if they are only 60% qualified whereas women tend to apply only if they feel it matches their skills 100%.
Bottom line: If you underestimate your value, you will always be second-guessing yourself even if you are highly qualified. Understand your strengths and leverage them when applying for a better job or negotiating a salary.
3. KEEP A NOTE OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Self-validation is important as it helps remind you that your skills are valuable. Whether it’s an email from your boss saying ‘good job’ or a task list that has been completed, always keep a running record of your successes. Make a file of all the accolades you receive this year.
Bottom line: This will be of tremendous help when it’s time for your year-end review or when you are trying to advocate for a promotion.
4. SPEAK UP
Find yourself tongue-tied in meetings? In a room full of people, confidence plays a big role when expressing your ideas. If you are planning to pitch an idea, do some research beforehand and go prepared with examples and talking points.
Bottom Line: Afraid that your idea will be shot down? Believe in it yourself first. More than the words, it is your conviction and the passion of your tone that will help you sell it.
5. SELF IMPROVEMENT IS A NEVER-ENDING PROCESS
Interviewers often ask the question, “what are your weaknesses?”. If 3 to 5 years later you are still listing the same weaknesses in your interviews then you haven’t made much progress in your career. It is not only important to learn new skill-sets to advance your career but also observe your weaknesses and demolish them.
Bottom line: Weaknesses can turn into fear if not tackled soon. Train your mind to be aware of them, which can help you control and even overcome some of them. Always feel shaky during a presentation? Rather than passing up an opportunity to present, try breathing exercises.
6. ASK WHAT MORE YOU CAN DO
Once you are settled in the daily grind of your duties, the feeling of stagnation can seep in quickly. Before you think of quitting your job though, evaluate if you were able to extract the best learning experience from your current employer. Asking for new responsibilities and showing your manager that you are capable of doing more, will go a long way in your skill-building as well as becoming a valuable asset to your company.
Bottom line: If the company is growing but you are not, then there are a lot of ‘resume building opportunities’ you are missing out on. Step up and ask for additional tasks that may not be in your scope of work.
7. TAKE YOUR FINANCES SERIOUSLY
When you are just starting out a job, saving for the future will be the last thing on your mind. But before you know it, you will be overwhelmed with budgeting daily expenses, and would never have enough cash for big-ticket costs such as buying a car or house, let alone saving for retirement.
Bottom line: Create a monthly savings target, even if it is small.