As I was thinking through the money tips I wish I knew, I started to jot down the work habits I wish I knew. Similar to the financial tips and habits, these work tips and habits should be helpful no matter what age you are or how far you are along your career journey. I am a career marketer and you can read about my marketing career journey and career mapping. I went from a college student majoring in Marketing to transitioning from a direct mail analyst to ultimately becoming a digital marketing executive at a Fortune 500.
This post is inspired by the many readers from the sports cards community who are either just getting started in their career or need some reminders to make sure their career does not get stalled.
9 Work Habits and Tips I Wish I Knew In My 20s That Still Applies Today
1. Try not to compare yourself with others or get envious
As a very competitive person, I started my career comparing myself with others. LinkedIn is not a very healthy place to start getting down that rabbit hole. I was always curious about how others around my age range were progressing at various companies and then looking at Glassdoor on what their potential salaries could be. Going down this rabbit hole can be extremely demotivating and can affect your work. I experienced this in my 20s. I felt like my salary was not high enough, my title was not big enough, my career was not moving fast enough, or my company was not prestigious enough. I finally grew out of this toxic mindset in my 30s and focused on my responsibilities and being bold at work. The mindset shift is to be thankful of the opportunities given and just kicking ass at what you are doing. By not comparing myself with others, my salary went up exponentially, my stress level went down considerably, and am more thankful than ever to be in the position I am in now.
2. Be bold at work
You have more control over your career than you you will ever think. As you grow in your career, you will quickly realize that employees and employers are both replaceable. You might feel a sense of loyalty, but in reality, everyone is replaceable. You might as well take risks and see if you can make a name for yourself. When you are starting out in your career, you tend to be a robot, you do as you say and occasionally take on stretch projects to make yourself look good. I was one of those who would spend extra time to make sure that I did a great job and I was volunteering for extra projects. What was missing is that I was not bold enough to go above and beyond what was assigned to me. I did not search for new opportunities and pitch new ideas. Typically when you join a company, most of the employees are competent, but assuming you are ambitious, you want to stand out and be ahead of the competency curve. Taking that next step that is not on your list of responsibilities will take you further in your career.
3. Keep track of your accomplishments
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your career is assuming that others such as your manager will sing your praises for you. Never assume that. Always have the mindset that you need to humbly remind your manager and others of your accomplishments. The easiest way to do this is during your review period so keep track of your major and minor accomplishments throughout the year. By the time your review time comes around, you will have a list armed and ready to go. If you wait until the last minute to try to remember everything you did for the past year, you will forget something; it is inevitable. It happened every year until I finally decided to keep track of my accomplishments. I tend to have a case of procrastination-itis so I always ended up realizing I missed an accomplishment worth noting in my review. Remember your manager has their own accomplishments and possibly other employees to worry about so do not assume they will remember everything. You need to be responsible for singing your own praises when appropriate.
4. Talk to your manager to understand how to get to the next level and what you need to do
This actually took me a while for me to take action. I always thought that doing a kickass job in the responsibilities given would be enough. Nope. Not even close. If you are ambitious enough to want to move to the next level, have the conversation with your manager at a minimum. You must realize that the next level will have different responsibilities and elevated expectations so you cannot assume that how you are succeeding in your existing role will translate to success in the next level. By having the conversation with your manager, they will know what it is you need to start doing or start thinking about. Do not expect a checklist of items, but you will likely get a list of high level broad expectations that you can start implementing in your current job.
5. Network internally and externally
I am an introvert at heart so networking back in the good ole days pre-COVID was a nightmare scenario. That said there really is no excuse because of LinkedIn among other social media channels. You want to be surrounded with like minded and even more ambitious individuals to help fuel ideas and receive candid feedback. Networking will eventually lead to finding a mentor or at least finding a group of like minded individuals of which you can speak the same language. As you continue to build your network and more importantly build relationships within your network, this will lead to new opportunities you never thought was possible. No matter how awkward it might be at first, remind yourself that not only are you expanding your mindset now, but you are also helping your future.
6. Do not follow the money, follow the responsibilities, opportunities, and impact to your career growth
The toughest thing for me especially in my 20s was to not focus on the money. My naive goal growing up was to make 6 figures. What this does not take into account is what sacrifices you make to earn a particular salary. When you are strapped on cash and have mountains of debt, it is really tough to look past the money. I speak from experience in which I would not follow the money, I would focus on the bigger picture. I can count the number of times on one hand in which I faced a career crossroads and a couple of those early choices, I chose the money. Sometimes following the money might make sense if and only if it checks off the bigger picture items including responsibilities, opportunities, and impact to career growth. From my experience, you will likely sacrifice the bigger picture items for money.
7. Realize when it is time to move on
One thing that I have done right my entire career is realizing when it is time to move on. The idea of having to jump companies every couple years is dumb. It is better to know when it is time to move on whether finding a different company or a different role within the company. This could mean you realize it is time to find something new after 6 months or 6 years. Personally I have found that if I get bored, am not getting challenged, or I get comfortable in my work setting, then it is time to find something else. For me this typically ranges from 18 months to 3 years. Remember this, there is no sense of loyalty between employees and employers. Everyone is replaceable.
8. Be open to negotiating
When people think of negotiating, most automatically think of money or in this case, the salary. Everything is negotiable. If the employer is not willing to negotiate to a higher salary, then you might be able to negotiate more personal time off (PTO) or vacation. Some companies will separate the two. The idea here is that you never know. Now with many sites giving you a sense of salary ranges, you better believe companies are taking note. One experience I had early on was that I accepted a new role and I was so happy getting the role, I automatically accepted what was offered. The soon to be new manager actually reached out and said hey I think you are underselling yourself and should ask for 20% more and you can settle on 15%. The rumor at this company was that salary was always set so I did not bother to negotiate. Turns out, this was false. Negotiating when it comes to your career will never be easy. It will be a mixture of feeling courageous, awkward, and unease. Get over it and ask. If the company is so set in their ways that they are willing to rescind the offer, then that is a toxic company culture you never wanted to be part of anyway. I have had this happened and it always, always works out for the better.
9. Read/Listen. Read/Listen. Read/Listen
I am an avid listener of podcasts and books and realize some of you actually read physical books. One of the most important qualities I have learned as I have developed into a leader is to have high EQ or emotional intelligence. If there is one topic that I would recommend learning more about, it is anything to do with EQ.
Now back to the community….what are other work tips you wish you knew or ones you’ve recently learned?