What everyone should know at the beginning of their career

Focus on growth

Early in your working life, you’re defined by the company you join, so choose wisely.

How does the company you’re working for (or considering joining) prioritise growth, both personally and professionally? How does the team you’ll be working for plan to grow in the coming year, and what do the prospects look like for growth for the broader company?

Always be learning

In my opinion, people over emphasise the importance of formal mentorship in building their career. Instead of identifying one mentor to learn from, make learning a daily practice. Ask questions. Write down what you see and observe about what works and what doesn’t. Identify people you admire and learn from them, but don’t wait for a formal mentorship relationship to do so.

Lean in to your weaknesses

At many stages of your career, you need to learn new things. For that to be relatively painless later in your career, you need to build that habit now.

So instead of running away from things you’re not good at, lean into them. Are you a great writer but not very technical? Learning even a little bit of code or the ins-and-outs of Photoshop will help you significantly. Are you good at detail but have trouble seeing the big picture? Ask one of your colleagues who is great at project management how she juggles priorities. It’s very easy to fall back on your natural talents or training, but you’ll be well served if you invest the time and effort to push yourself on your greatest areas of weakness early and often in your career.

Rack up results, not recognition

The biggest complaint I hear from people new to the workforce is that another person got credit for their work and “that’s not fair.” It is incredibly frustrating when other people get credit for your blood, sweat, and tears. I can tell you that over time, fortune rewards those who rack up results instead of focusing on getting credit. Instead of obsessing over recognition and credit, obsess over results: Your career will thank you for it later.

It’s not your manager’s job to manage your career

Your boss is your manager at work, not a mind reader, fortune-teller, or psychologist. He or she can and should support you in your professional goals, but the only person in the driver’s seat of your career is you. Manage it proactively by asking for what you want, making it clear what interests you, and eating up feedback instead of being defensive – doing so will make you a better employee and a better leader, regardless of whether you stay at a company for ten months or ten years.

Learn to rebound

Your career isn’t always gonna go in a straight line. But what matters is how well you get back in the ring. If a project didn’t go your way or an internship didn’t turn out as planned, don’t get down on yourself – get on with it. Your success is heavily dependent on your ability to bounce back from challenges, so the earlier you learn to reset your attitude after a setback, the better.

Get the gratitude bug early

I realise I sound ancient saying this (I’m cool with that), but people remember gratitude in a way that outperforms other emotions or motivators. Take the time to thank people who interviewed you, people who made time to share what they know with you, and people whose influence helped you succeed. Be gracious in your praise of others and your kindness toward people who help you: People notice and remember this for years to come.

Author: Katie Burke

Editor: Kim Elliott

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