Today’s professional world is rife with opportunities for entrepreneurs and self-starters to create the life they want if they work hard and leverage their connections. Between the gig economy and the large force of young professionals in the traditional workplace (a combination of Gen X, Gen Y [Millennials], and Gen Z), the way people perceive and achieve professional advancement is changing. However, with the millions of young people entering the workforce today, competition is fierce. Here are 5 steps young professionals can take to differentiate themselves from the competition and move toward quicker advancement, whether climbing a more traditional corporate ladder or pursuing the creation of their own business.
1. Network Like Crazy
As the old adage goes, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” While we tend to disagree with the former part of the sentiment – what you know and hard work really are half the battle – leveraging your connections can open doors and opportunities that would take much longer to access on your own. To leverage your connections, you have to first make those connections, and the best way to do so is to constantly meet new people.
There are lots of professional events, happy hours, and retreats just waiting for you to attend. These events make networking easier, as everyone attending is open and looking to network as well. However, you shouldn’t reserve all of your networking energy solely for these events. Always be on the lookout for professional connections, even in unexpected places. For instance, your friend’s brother may know the CEO of a startup that you’d like to work for.
In addition, you can find new connections within your existing workplace network as well. Organizing an after-work happy hour or extra-curricular weekend activity for your coworkers can lead to improved or new connections with people in your office – some who may recognize your initiative and be in a position to help you excel.
2. Dress for the Job You Want
This tip is one of the oldest we know, but it’s stuck around because it works. In today’s world of jeans-friendly startups and work-from-home jobs, it’s easy to fall into the routine (or lack of one) of looking like a slob. Just because the rest of the office wears jeans and t-shirts to work doesn’t mean you can’t look sophisticated and professional. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look your best for every video conference or in-person meeting.
Dressing well will differentiate you from the pack and change the way your connections perceive you and the way you perceive yourself. You’ll eliminate any appearance-based questions of your capability to handle yourself and be professional.
3. Read, Read, Read
The most successful people and thought leaders are some of the most well-read people in the world. Reading books of all kinds – fiction, history, biography, opinion, political, skills-based – is a great step toward becoming an expert in your field. Keeping up to date on news and current events both in your industry and outside of it is a habit that will keep you well rounded. It takes effort to incorporate reading into your busy routine, but people will take notice of your commitment. As a professional, you can’t read too much, and you can never have too much information.
4. See Opportunity Everywhere
One of the biggest traits that will differentiate you from your peers is the ability to find opportunity in every situation, including failure. There are countless age-old adages about seeing failure more creatively, allowing it to help you grow, and seeing opportunity for new enterprises where previous ones fell apart. While this may seem like a simple change of mindset, it’ll make worlds of difference. Once again, people will notice that you think differently.
5. Communicate Openly in Your Workplace
In a workplace that contains 5 unique generations with 5 unique points of view and methods of expression, personal and professional communication tends to come to a halt. Open, intentional, and successful communication is hard to find in any office space. Developing these communication and social skills is of paramount importance to your advancement (Need a hand with this? We *might* know someone qualified).
However, if you’re willing to put the hard work in and become efficient, if not great, at these so-called “soft” skills, you’ve already got a leg up on the competition. Making this change is as simple as going to your boss’s office to speak to them face to face instead of sending an email, bringing up your ideas in meetings with your superiors, or asking your business’s leaders questions about the story of their business or what they hope to achieve with their company.
Need an Extra Push?
It’s okay to need a little help developing your professional communication and networking skills. You don’t know what you don’t know, and asking for help to become a more rounded individual is always a good thing. We’re here for you – just get in touch!