Like a baby bird booted from the nest, young professionals entering the work world can feel totally out of their league. You've spent most of your life in student mode, learning the skills you need to "adult" - but how do you start actually adulting?
Here, we cover the things every work-world newbie needs to know in order to project a mature, professional image that will help you launch the career of your dreams.
"No Brainers" Are Worth Remembering
Show up on time, every time. Stay late when needed. Dress appropriately for your workplace. Do what you're asked. Stay off social media at work.
These points can sound so basic, many young workers wonder why they're even worth repeating. After all, you've been doing them throughout your school years, right?
Yet these simple steps are the foundation of every successful career. They build your reputation from the start as someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and aware of others' needs and expectations. And when your co-workers and boss see you as reliable, trustworthy, and aware of others, they're more likely to give you the kind of work you want most - as well as the raises and promotions that often go with it.
Use Your People Skills, Even If You're Not a People Person
Some people enter the workforce loving every minute of the time they spend surrounded by co-workers, helping customers, or meeting new colleagues. Others dread it.
Whether you're a people person or not, two essential "people skills" should form the basis of every interaction you have with your boss, co-workers, and customers.
First, respect the people around you. Practice kindness, honesty, and patience. Approach problems from the default position of "Okay, how can we solve it together?" Practice assertiveness, and focus on the issues when a conflict arises instead of pointing fingers.
Second, complain only to a person who can do something about your complaint. Often, this will mean keeping your complaints quiet when around your co-workers and only sharing them with your boss. Since gossip is the type of complaint no one can do anything about, cross it off your list entirely.
These two rules will help you build professional relationships with those around you. And since you never know when you'll run into a former colleague again - or what position they'll be in to help or hurt you when you do - it's best to keep every relationship positive and professional.
Practice a Growth Mindset
Expect only one constant in your career: change.
Many careers that exist today didn't exist ten years ago, or used a different skill set ten years ago. Some won't exist ten years from now. The work you do will change, the ways you do it will change, and so will the people you work with.
To prepare for this ever-shifting world, cultivate a "growth mindset" by practicing curiosity and a willingness to try new things. Volunteer for new projects, read about what's happening in your field, and grab every chance you can to learn a new skill.
Similarly, practice resilience. You will struggle, stumble, and fail during your career. Sometimes, these mistakes will be your doing; sometimes, they'll result from forces outside your control.
No matter what happens, practice bouncing back. Schedule some alone time to feel your anger, disappointment, or hurt; then make a plan to move forward from the challenge that is in your way. Mature professionals know that to thrive in their careers, they have to own every moment - good and bad, caused by you or caused by someone else. Always ask, "What can I do now?"
Ask for and Offer Help
If you want to separate the real adults from the fake-it-till-you-make-it crowd, ask one question: "What's your relationship with help?"
Do you ask for help when you need it? Do you offer help to others when you see them struggling? Both are signs you have the maturity required to swallow your pride, be vulnerable, and think about a bigger picture than simply finishing your own work.
Not sure how to start asking for help, or offering it to others? You can ask for help with that, too. Talk to your boss or your recruiter about how you can seek help, offer help, and engage with your co-workers more effectively.