11 career learnings in your 20’s that set you up for life
Like most things in life, the more you stick with them, the better the rewards. And this is certainly true with your career. When you’re in your 20’s there are essential things that everyone has to learn that fine-tune your focus for a fine career ahead. In a very real way, your 20’s are like the professional training ground for your future career.
Here’re 11 things that you learn as a 20-something that will help you blossom into your 30’s…
- You learn that a ‘dream job’ is a myth – naïvely expecting any job to be a dream job is setting yourself up for disappointment. Some jobs will be better than others, but the trick is to find the good parts of the job and make the most of them while using your resources to network and build skills that will springboard you onto bigger and better jobs in the future.
- You start to take interviews seriously – now that you have a couple of jobs under your belt, (even the casual weekend ones count), you know that things start to get more competitive on the jobs front as you progress. You learn that you need to prepare for interviews to stand out from the pack. ‘Winging it’ just won’t fly. And it won’t get you the job.
- You’re losing the “apprentice’s” nerves – we’ve all been there. On your first job, you worry that if you make a mistake or speak up when something is wrong you might get fired or judged harshly. You don’t want to stand out. But as you learn the ropes in your 20’s, you gain confidence – and the ability to use constructive criticism, well, constructively!
- You learn about your own work cycles – the more you work, the more you understand about when you are at your most productive and when you’re not – and to timetable yourself around this. (You also learn not to fret when you’re feeling unproductive or have low energy as this is just part of the cycle).
- That delivering a presentation or speech is not going to kill you – you’ve probably done a little bit already; presenting an update in a meeting or giving the new staff an orientation talk. You might not be ready to present to an auditorium filled with 1,000 people, but you are learning that getting up in front of a bunch of people isn’t so scary. It’s all part of the job and part of the territory of becoming proficient in your field.
- You learn that it’s OK to say “no” occasionally – you’re no longer the frightened young thing that feels they have to take everything on, just to prove your worth. Of course, when you are starting out it’s important to demonstrate that you’re not afraid of rolling up your sleeves and getting to work on tasks that are not really a part of your job description. But now, you’re learning that there are times when you can gracefully put your foot down and reject a request, particularly when there are other higher priority tasks to focus on.
- You start to understand the types of jobs that will make you happy – and you know how to assess potential job opportunities by accessing your networks, speaking to colleagues and mentors and through the job advertisement or interview process.
- You’re learning a thing or two about productivity – these skills take time. Productivity involves more than just being busy. You’re learning not to check emails every five minutes, and you know how good it feels to tick completed tasks off the list. You aim to achieve one significant task before lunchtime, and you no longer put off the less appealing tasks until the end of the day. You are developing a sense of calm and order and know how to get on with things.
- You’re realising that it is good to delegate – this doesn’t mean you’re learning how to cop out, but more like how to make the most of your time, and avoid things you shouldn’t be doing. This sometimes involves delegating to more junior team members while you focus on the bigger picture. With the permission of your manager, you are gaining the experience to pick the right people to delegate to and developing your ability to read the skills and strengths of others in the team.
- You are understanding yourself better – with more time in the workplace, you get to know your talents and your weak points. This will give you the confidence to put yourself out there for jobs you know you will do well at and that will maximise your skills. And you can avoid those that won’t enhance your career prospects.
- You learn that office Christmas parties are work events – as fun as it might be to relax and let your guard down with your colleagues, the annual Christmas party isn’t a time to drink too much and play games on photocopying machines. One of the best things you’ll learn in your 20’s is how to moderate your behaviour and understand responsibility (and that you have to show up for work the next day!).
Now that you’re in your 20’s, you’re all grown-up and it just gets better and better.