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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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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

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Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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