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Top 10 Things 20-Somethings Should Know

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Melanie H. Axman of Business Insider has 10 career tips that all 20-something-year-olds should adhere to. These tips are not only informational, but provide forms of self-confirmation. After viewing her list of ten you no longer feel alone in your pursuits to rich, famous, or extremely successful lifestyles. You’re reminded that your first three jobs out of college will probably be the worst, but it’s all in preparation for a greater, more divine career path.

1. There is no clearly defined pathway.

Axman forces you to relax: there is no permanent route to success. There is no instructional guide; there is only trial and error while you hope to remain employed through an unpredictable economy. She insists you will “work in industries that have no direct correlation to each other,” but you will in turn “learn immensely from each of them.” As the economy shifts (and so will your interests), your resume may often appear distorted and without focus. But the skills you’ve gained from that 6 month profession or one year tenure is enough to prepare you for your next career journey. Discover yourself along the way, and gather professional notes. Treat each experience like a stepping stone, creating a stairway that is ultimately leading you towards your dream occupation. “You’ll end up taking whatever work you can get, until you find something you love… [but] the rewards and lessons throughout will surprise you.”

2. Cooperating with that co-worker (or boss, colleague, intern) you can’t stand will be a continuous part of your development. Learn to navigate wisely.

“No one has a perfect workplace. Egos, expectations, assumptions, and baggage are [all] at play in a job… [shaping] dynamics between coworkers [and] effecting productivity.” As an employee, you are bound to experience an overbearing boss, a nosy coworker, or a drama filled manager. You might even encounter team members who embody each of these nauseating qualities, immediately concluding that they were placed here on Earth to ruin your life. But these types of people exist in every type of work place and unfortunately, they’re here to stay. You will contemplate quitting, relocating, or transferring, but there is no running from the complicated co-worker. “Changing your work environment may shift your landscape, but only temporarily. Tough personalities don’t go away… So learning to work with these characters will turn out to be a huge asset to your employers.” Learning to pick your battles, holding your tongue, and keeping your head low, are skills that will enable you to maneuver through excess and focus on the importance of the experience. By remaining cordial and congenial you will appease your boss and render a great recommendation letter, as well as separate yourself from the stressors that come along with working a 9-5. It’s just a job. Maintain your self-respect, but avoid starting a corporate civil war.

3. You may be replaceable, but seek work where you are celebrated and appreciated.

Axman accounts a time in which a former boss said to her, “If you don’t like it here, you can leave. 80 well-qualified people would take your job in a heartbeat.” She admits that this was true, and that “other people can do your job, and well… but there will be working environments where you will be nurtured, groomed, and respected for being you.” Finding work environments such as these may be tough, but remember: displaying your strengths and areas of focus can be a constant yet subtle reminder of why you were hired in the first place. Try landing occupations that appreciate a fresh mind, and are in need of a pipeline to a youthful audience. Being surrounded by supporters and encouragers will increase your work ethic, and you will in turn develop a sense of loyalty. Axman states that “despite a range of opportunities for other roles, your loyalty will keep you grounded until it’s time to move on. In the meantime, your success – both personal and professional, talents and skills will be celebrated.”

4. [A] recession will drastically change career plans; everyone will flock to graduate school at once.

“Job opportunities won’t always be so forthcoming as they were in early 2003,” states Axman. “After college, many of your classmates land jobs almost immediately after graduating, but none of us are prepared for how bad the market [could] get.” Axman believes that it is best to “ride it out” and to “delay grad school.” She strongly believes in the educational and personal experiences jobs will afford you, free of charge. “You can commit to a second degree when you have a more definitive career path.”

5. The old rules still apply, and will for a long time.

“The workplace continues to evolve, but some aspects remain the same.  The work ethic you’ve inherited from your parents will take you a long way. Their journey, and deeply embedded gratitude for their jobs, will help you understand and appreciate your own work opportunities.” Your parents are and will forever be the foundation of your appreciation for work. They will constantly remind you of how tight their income is, or how important it is to manager your cash. You will appreciate work for the days they’ve gone without it, or for the nights they endured hours on end just to feed and clothe you. “Subsequently, you, as they did, will work incredibly hard, and have a long lasting impact on roles you take on.”

6. Stay open and grateful.

“Finding the silver lining in every job, no matter how small, will keep you sane. Taking an entry-level role after graduating from college with highest honors will keep you humble.”

Focus on the good of every opportunity, find the lesson in every situation, and be grateful for employment. Complaining about the dissatisfactory of not being able to work diligently in the career of your choice is only a waste of energy. Understand that despite the work ethic you exuded in college and the great marks you received on your transcript, there will still be moments in which you must prove yourself. Of course complaining is easier, and a random outburst or tangent is good for the soul, but in order to maintain your sanity, store your negative vibes and release them through exercise or weekend get-a-ways. Besides, such negative aggression may fuel you to create your own business, launch your own start-up, and discover your passion.

7. You won’t always be broke. If you are, you haven’t learned to manage your money.

“Budget. Many of your peers will live outside their means, buying gorgeous items on credit cards. You will bargain hunt and shop at thrift store[s]. You will own unique vintage pieces, having paid less than $20 for most of them. You’ll stick to your budget, and you will travel to phenomenal places like Patagonia, India, and Iceland without going into debt.”

Yes there are those graduates and fellow peers whose incomes may reach $60,000 and $80,000 per year right out of undergrad. And yes you may contemplate the option of shifting gears and honing in on finance and business ventures. But in the last four years of your life, if the thought of managing numbers and data input has not crossed your mind, or you become nauseous at the thought of charts and graphs, then the promise of financial gain in exchange for emotional satisfaction is just not worth it. Money will come. Your 20-somethings is the time in which you focus on investing in self and building your brand. Catch food specials and find fee events while it’s still cool to do so.

8. If you smell smoke, get the hell out.

“There will be 2 major points in your career,” says Axman, “when you will be deeply worried about the state of your employer, and your work environment.” Listen to your instincts. “If your non-profit is rapidly leaking funds, or the start-up you are helping run has no intention of actually getting off the ground, get the hell out. Your time and talents are best honed elsewhere.”

It is easy to be sucked into the idea of landing a leading position in a promising corporation, complete with responsibility and filled with promise. But there is nothing a recent grad can do about the future of a company if the foundation of your employer has flopped before you even hop on board. It is not your job to save an office and you should never take on such responsibility. If pay checks are being delayed, and team member are constantly and continuously laid off, abort the Titanic, and find another ship worth sailing.

9. You are so much more resilient than you realize.

“You will be put in scary and difficult situations at work, and you will navigate them gracefully… You will have clients scream at you, and bosses humiliate you. You will survive that one random business trip to Mexico City alone. You will be smarter and stronger for all of it.”

10. Your pursuit of personal happiness will make you a better employee.

“You will learn, slowly, that it’s not about money and fame. You will eventually find your craft, and hone it – the discipline alone will make you giddy with discovery.” Understanding that you are full of gifts and creativity of your own will push you through the work day. You will rush home through traffic and intersections just so you can continue to work on yourself and build your brand. You will create and practice self-development. You will tap into ideas and use your paychecks to turn dreams into realities. Your pursuit of happiness will make you a better employee, you will encourage others and monopolize off each learning opportunity.

“You’ll hit a point in your career where your peers will start to turn inward,” says Axman, “Many becoming disinterested in their jobs. Find things you love about every position. Soak up everything. Continue to grind. Hustle away, nose down, getting it done. Show up early. Show up everyone. And never take for granted how lucky you are to be able to work.”

This story is also featured at ChampionDreams.com.

Annsleigh Denise is a graduate of Spelman College, earning a Bachelor's Degree in English and a Minor in Multi-Media and Professional Writing. She is a multifaceted creative, focused on the inner-workings of print, publication, and Broadcast Journalism. Possessing notable editorial skills, Annsleigh aspires to utilize her professional experience to impact the world of media.

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