Your career doesn’t define you, but for most people it’s what puts food on their plates and a roof over their heads.
Millennials have started to change the rules of the workplace (much like Gen X did before them). However, there are some basic, universal words of wisdom that everyone should keep in mind. Here are our top-level pieces of career advice to help you get the most from your career and optimize your earnings potential.
Attitude and altitude
- Go above and beyond what is expected of you.
- Merely getting deliverables done on time is the bare minimum that is expected of you. If you never go beyond that, then you’re in the perfect job (ie don’t expect to be promoted).
- Put your own fingerprint on the work you do. Become irreplaceable.
- Add value to the team, the project, and the company whenever and wherever you can.
- Bring your passion and enthusiasm into the office. They are contagious.
- Get enough sleep on work nights. Not getting enough zzzzzz’s will have you slogging into work. Nobody wants that.
- Make your boss and your team look good. Make your boss’ job easier.
Advocate for yourself because nobody else will do it for you
- Keep track of great work you’ve done at your job (projects, reports, ideas, going above and beyond the call, great feedback from customers, clients, or other people at your company).
- When it’s time for a performance review, mention these details to remind your boss about your accomplishments and your importance to the team. You will make your boss’ job easier, plus you have undeniable proof.
- Be specific. Keep track of the date, context, the issue, your contribution, the result, etc.
- If you haven’t had a performance review in more than a year and you think having one would be helpful to your career, ask for one.
- Ask for that raise or promotion that you feel you deserve. Don’t be timid. If you can’t advocate for yourself, don’t expect anyone else to do that for you.
- Research what your counterparts at other companies are earning (take a look at sites like Glassdoor), and use that information to help bolster your case for a raise.
Find your voice
- Speak up at meetings. Let your voice be heard. Share your views.
- The next big idea could certainly come from the most junior person. Nobody has a monopoly on great ideas.
- At the same time, get to know the culture of your work environment. A meeting with Ms. Mostimportantclient is probably not the best time for the intern to spout new ideas.
Don’t mix business and personal life
- Every work environment is different, but in general, try not to bring your personal life to the workplace.
- Work is work and personal is personal. Don’t mix them.
- Political discussions can get dicey. Try to avoid them at the office. And don’t assume that everyone agrees with your views. You may be unpleasantly surprised.
Stay current with developments in your industry
- Attend industry conferences and meet-ups to keep current with the latest developments and innovations in your field. Business moves fast. Keep up.
- Keep up with the daily business news in your industry as well. Don’t be left in the dark when someone at work mentions the big new thing that just hit the news cycle.
- Take webinars or courses in your field to learn new skills and to keep the old ones sharp.
- Read read read. This is the information age. There’s no excuse for not knowing what’s going on.
- Joining industry associations is another way to stay current in your field (as well as meet new people).
- Your education didn’t stop when you left school. Keep learning new things every day.
Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
- Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date all the time. Jobs may be looking for you.
- Update your resume periodically even if you aren’t in job-hunt mode.
- Opportunities might arise when you least expect it.
- If you wait until you’re looking for a job, you might forget important details.
- Network rabidly. Good professional relationships and contacts are vital to your career.
- You never know when your company may send great employees packing, so always be prepared.
- Attend industry events and meet-ups in your field (and not in your field).
- You never know when an opportunity may arise, even if you aren’t actively looking.
- There are opportunities for personal and professional growth out there. Keep your antennae up at all times.
- If you get a sense that your job may not be secure for whatever reason, be proactive in researching other opportunities. Don’t wait until there’s a time clock on your head.
- Unless you absolutely need the money and can’t find it some other way, don’t stay in a job where you feel as though you are stagnating, not learning, not advancing, not respected, or not happy.
- But listen to your parents: Don’t quit one job until you find the next job (unless things are intolerable at your present job).
- People who switch jobs more frequently end up earning more over their entire careers than people who stay at the same job.
- That’s not to say that you should become a revolving door every year or two. Many companies frown upon “job hoppers.”
- However, consider other options with an eye towards your long-term career goals and earnings capacity.
The long and winding (and broken) road….
- Most people’s career paths are winding, not straight. Don’t let detours throw you. Expect them. They can be liberating and vital to your success.
- Failure is usually on the path to success. If you avoid failing, you are probably playing it too safe and missing out on what could eventually be bigger and better.
- Don’t try to have everything mapped out in advance. Be open to new opportunities that you didn’t foresee.
- Don’t let your career be dictated by inertia. Don’t go on autopilot.
- Don’t ever feel pigeon-holed or stuck in something you hate. You can (usually) change what you don’t like.
- Many great employees are let go due to downsizing, outsourcing, department closings, industry changes or a long list of other business needs that have absolutely nothing to do with the employees themselves. If that includes you, do yourself and your self-esteem a big favor by not taking any unplanned exit personally. You’ll find something better. Move forward.
Vacation only works if you take it
- Make sure to take vacation time. Nobody is so busy at work that s/he can’t take off time to get away.
- Vacations will help you be more productive when you return to work. Don’t leave vacation days on the table.
- Vacations don’t have to be expensive trips. Find some way to get away without breaking the piggy.
- Feel grateful for the job you have. It helps support you (and maybe also your family) and (hopefully) brings you pride and personal satisfaction.
- Many people would love to have your job. Don’t take it for granted.