It’s not news to most of us that our twenties account for the foundation of our success in adulthood. As young professionals and millennials alike, the majority of us have been thinking seriously for quite some time now just how we’re going to succeed in life.
We’ve graduated high school, college, and/or perhaps even grad school. We’ve applied for a variety of jobs, lived through the exhausting interview process to tell the tale, and (hopefully) have some experiences under our belts.
Those of us creeping into our mid-twenties can attest to the truth that the stretch of our twenties is a defining decade, one that in many ways shapes the rest of our lives.
This is the time for us to be mindful with our budgets by investing in retirement plans early on, making wise purchases, paying off student loans, and budgeting the lifestyle of a young professional living independently for the first time.
We are the young professionals securing our careers in what we hope and believe is our dream niche. As millennials, we are the generation of tech savvy, passionate, and creative people with new ideas in mind. Twenty-somethings today have all of the tools to build the life we want. The only thing that’s really stopping us is our desire to go out and get it.
With a mountain of student loans to pay off, and earnings barely higher than minimum wage (even with a college degree, mind you) it can be a nightmare to budget how we are able to make it all happen. You know, the dream life of a six-figure income, beautiful single family home, breathtaking wedding, kids in a good school system, minimal debt, and a healthy retirement in the works.
How can we have it all when we’re only just beginning?
Luckily, like most things in life, everything takes time. The key is to begin early on to work your way in the right direction.
A strong career (like all the other amazing things we desire) takes time to earn and it’s all about you making an effort every single day.
Here are five solid tips for building a strong career foundation in your twenties:
1. Have a vision in mind.
Only you know what inspires you and brings meaning to your work. Write down the life you want to live and work toward that vision every single day.
If your dream is to teach, and you have all of the necessary credentials and degrees in the works, keep chugging right along. If your dream career involves writing, consulting, designing, or editing, make it your personal mission to see your vision come to light.
Following your heart really can pay off and your goals will come to fruition if you follow through with them.
2. Establish networking goals.
Networking is a skill many of us think we’ve nailed, but one we could all polish a bit. No one’s “perfect” at it (or anything for that matter) but you should aim to being as concise, confident, and well-prepared as possible.
When it comes to networking, set a goal for yourself. It can be a simple aim to network with at least one new person each week, or something more lofty, such as networking with someone new every single day.
Making new contacts will ultimately build new relationships, and you never know what career opportunities new contacts will open up for you. In many ways, it really is about who you know, as opposed to what you know.
3. Start before you’re ready.
Whether in reference to investing in a retirement plan, interning at a local corporation, or networking with new people, always start before you’re ready. Those four precious years of college really do fly by and before you know it you’ll be desperately searching for any company that will consider you for a job.
Start interning early on to see what office setting fits you best. Establish a retirement plan to contribute a small percentage to your 401K or 403B early on. Even chump change adds up! Always start as early as possible. Your career depends on action, no matter how large or small.
4. Establish a work-life balance.
Whether you’re 22 and fresh out of your undergrad or 45 with a spouse and three kids, always remember that work and life is about balance.
Work should support your life, allowing you to pay your bills, go on vacation (hopefully), and even buy you the things that make you happy, like a date night with your beau or a new dress that makes you feel beautiful.
We all know work is work and at times it’s stressful, frustrating, and even makes you want to quit. Don’t quit. Instead, try your very best to leave work in the office or sealed away in your briefcase. Don’t check your emails when you’re at home enjoying dinner with your family. There’s a time and a place for work, personal time, and all the above!
5. Know and believe you’re more than your job.
It’s tempting to fall into the mindset that you are you’re job. Sometimes we get so caught up in titles and professional labels that we lose sight of who we are.
You’re not a “teacher,” you teach. You’re not an “accountant,” you work in accounting. There’s a slight difference that reminds us we are not what we do. Your job may come and go in life.
Employed or not, you’re always you, not a mere title. Having a strong career foundation means you know what you’re working for, but you don’t allow it to consume you.
Building a strong career foundation in your twenties will not happen overnight. We all need the friendly reminder that our professions will change as we move through experiences and mature.
Our twenty-something years do shape our future, but not all at once. Every single day should present itself as an opportunity to work toward larger career goals. Be active in your search for the perfect fit.
Don’t settle for less than you deserve or desire. Take time each day to polish your craft: edit your resume, revise your cover letter, distribute business cards, network with others, and do your best leave your work outside your home.
A career should be a healthy facet of your life, not the whole thing. At GenTwenty, we want you to be your best self. These tips, and so many more, will get you well on your way to doing just that!
Discussion: What’s the best career-building advice you’ve ever received?