Whether you’re fresh out of uni hungry for internships and entry-level positions, or an established professional fully entrenched in the daily corporate grind, your twenties can sometimes feel like you’re playing pretend businessperson rather than living it. Many young professionals, myself included, start to feel perpetually insecure because the reality is we don’t have all the experience and all the answers that our more advanced peers can offer.
But 20-somethings bring an arsenal of other skills to the boardroom table, a toolbox that should give us all the confidence to take longer strides in our twenties to set ourselves up for success when we do become wise, old pros in the biz. Without further ado, here are five secret hacks to maximising your career while you’re still nimble and unjaded enough to pull them off.
Don’t be afraid to get fired
This is not me giving you permission to show up to work in your pyjamas or partake in some flask drinking in the bathroom. We all know the infamous quote from an HP internal report that “men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” Women often fear either rejection on the basis that we’re unqualified, or even worse, being hired only to be inevitably fired because we’re in way over our head. Before we close the wage gap we must close the confidence gap – have faith in your ability to adapt and learn, take a job position’s requirement guidelines as just guidelines, and don’t be afraid to fail. At the end of the day, you may very well end up over your head or kicked to the curb – but will have your former title and slew of responsibilities to thank for your boosted salary level and enriched resume.
Switching companies is not a death sentence
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Wrong. Leaving a job can be one of the most stressful times in your career and even your personal life. When everything from your knowledge and processes down to your small, daily rituals are likely not transferrable to your new position, sometimes it can just feel easier to stay in your current role. But the reality is that staying with the same company for too long can inadvertently stifle your earning potential due to a number of factors, such as the difference between salary raises in a company. Yes, there are absolutely exceptions to this fact and more companies than ever are investing in upward mobility to fix that issue and retain talent, but in the meantime, don’t be afraid to explore different industries, companies and skill-sets in your twenties – each opportunity will bring you the ability to renegotiate your salary, benefits, work/life balance and promotion cycle.
Don’t network, make genuine friendships
We hear the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” so many times that we frantically sign up for some networking events and collect business cards like it’s Pokémon Go, but most of those connections never go farther than an impersonal resume sent, or a stiff email conversation. It’s perfectly fine to meet other professionals at networking events, conferences and so on, but instead of focusing on what they can do for you, think about what you have to offer them to start building a genuine friendship or work relationship that doesn’t stem from alterior motives. Even if it’s as simple as following up with an interesting article you think they may like, or offering to buy them a cup of coffee – first establish the relationship, and then you can eventually ask for their help or for a favour professionally, and you’ll have actually earned it.
Embrace your naiveté
Sometimes, not having all the answers, expertise or experience can actually be a good thing. When you come into a new piece of the business, client, or industry, you have the advantage of looking at everything with a fresh lens. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo of how things are done, and offer up your own perspective when you see something that could improve. Ask why your team isn’t doing X for this client, or if they’ve heard of the latest apps or social media platforms. Draw inspiration from the trends and experiences you come across in everyday life, and share that unique lens with your team – they’ll begin to see you as a creative asset and think of you for future products that require an innovative and trend-savvy role.
Be a yes person
It’s a common misconception that to be successful in business you have to put your head down and grind away – working overtime, eating lunch at your desk and spending your spare time immersed in industry literature. Some of the best professional opportunities come in the unexpected moments, when you say yes to happy hour with a random co-worker, to visiting your neighbours, or getting friendly with the locals on a road trip – you never know who you’ll connect with, receive an intriguing offer for, or what could spark inspiration for your latest venture. Spend your twenties being a yes person and you’ll build a network of like-minded, talented people to feed your creativity and ambition.
Written by Sophia Brockman, a senior account executive with WE Buchan.