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8 Pieces of Advice Every Young Professional Should Be Told

8 Pieces of Advice Every Young Professional Should Be Told

Everybody has heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder,” but isn’t it hard work just thinking about ways to be smarter? The following eight pieces of professional advice will serve to inspire or revolutionize your strategies for success, as they have done for mine.

1. Find a person who has the life or job you want.

Purely as a result of their own ego, this person will tell you all about how they got where they are, and how you can too. Even if this is a person you don’t know that well, drop them an email to ask if you can buy them a coffee and talk about their job. I did this three times while working in banking; bankers aren’t known for their generosity, but they are known for their ego, and what does any successful ego love more than talking about itself? I’ve also done this several times since leaving finance to go into my dream career, medicine. (Another benefit of this is they always insist on buying the coffee anyway.)

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2. Develop an interesting and relevant skill that isn’t a prerequisite.

Everybody who is worthy of being called your competition has the necessary skills and experience for the job you want. Just like driving through a city at rush hour, if you try to beat everyone else on what is normally the proper, most efficient route to work, you will arrive later than if you took the slightly inconvenient back roads with less traffic. The same goes for the skills market: you need to be good at the prerequisite skills, but if you only put your energy into those, you might find the traffic on that route overwhelming when you try to stand out. Develop a niche skill that is desirable but not something the competition has to have. It will make you more interesting and more useful.

3. Get a mentor.

Ideally this would be somebody senior within your company, but really it can be anybody more experienced than you in your industry: someone who is respected and who has influence. Again, if you appeal to this person’s ego and/or generous side, you will have somebody you can send hundreds of career-related questions to. They will also become incredibly useful when you need somebody to vouch for you.

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4. Realign your day-to-day efforts with the expectations you have for your future.

If you picture yourself achieving something impressive one day, then ask yourself: “Am I doing anything that is impressive right now?” If the answer is no, then you need to pick up your game. You can’t plod along in the middle of the pack if one day you hope to lead it. What are you already doing today to set yourself apart from your peers?

5. Make a five-year plan.

This isn’t just to help you figure out where you want to be in five years’ time; most importantly it is a detailed plan of how you’re going to get there. Start with where you want to be in five years and then work back, step-by-step, including each task/project/accomplishment you will need to achieve to move between steps. The results will probably scare you because if you’re ambitious you will realize there are steps you need to take now to be on schedule.

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6. Don’t say, “If it’s meant to be, then it will happen.”

This thought is incredibly comforting and it can occasionally be useful when you’re bravely bouncing back from a setback. But really this thought is just an excuse for inaction. It will be toxic to achievement if you’re not careful because this mind-set may remove the burden of progress from you and allows you to become passive instead of leading the charge on your goals.

7. Surround yourself with people you admire and ditch the ones who breed negativity.

People tend to recalibrate their definitions of what is normal, what is possible, and what counts as success based on their surroundings. You can achieve things that nobody thought possible of you once you’ve reset your standards to a higher point. At the same time, the more successful or happy you become, the more you will either encourage negativity or inspiration in your friends or colleagues. They may have to adapt to a new perspective of what is possible. Surround yourself with people you admire to raise the bar for yourself so you accomplish more, and get rid of those people who want to bring you back down to the level that they’re comfortable with. Just be careful that the people you admire are a diverse group or you risk becoming a polarized, one-dimensional person.

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8. Practical intelligence is a much higher predictor of success than IQ—work on it!

A decent IQ is a prerequisite for any good job, but it’s repeatedly been shown to not be a great indicator of success. In fact, research suggests once you have a moderately high IQ (>125), this is sufficient for pretty much most jobs in the world. A much more reliable indicator of someone’s success than IQ is their creative and practical intelligence. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, describes this as, “not knowledge for its own sake. It’s knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want.” A high IQ enables you to apply yourself very well to a given task, which is good but isn’t going to set you apart. To be successful in the world you have to create tasks, and figure out which tasks you should apply yourself to in the first place.

Have you got any hot tips for young players? Have you ever been given professional advice that worked really well for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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