As a big sister, I’ve had the privilege of mentoring my 10-years-younger little brother as he went through high school, college, several internships with my company, and eventually joined my company. He is now on a full-ride scholarship in grad school at Notre Dame. I couldn’t be prouder.
I’ve also worked with a number of younger professionals throughout my career, and I remember keenly being one of those young professionals—as a journalist, I was usually the youngest person in my newsroom (by far). There was so much I didn’t know, and wasn’t taught to me in college, about how to succeed in the business world.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the advice that I, at 35, would give to my 25-year-old self or other young professionals in their first few years of post-college employment. I don’t always follow this advice, but the results are infinitely better when I do. Here are 25 tips for success for young professionals under age 25:
- Take initiative. This is the most important thing you can do in any job, in any role—in life. Don’t wait for permission or a request, just see a need and propose a solution…better yet, start working on the solution!
- Dress for success. Senior professionals want to see you as an up-and-coming professional, not stuck in your college gear (and they’ll assume, your college mindset). Invest in a wardrobe that mirrors the executives (and by shopping sale racks and seconds stores like Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx, you can do this on your current salary). Don’t imagine “casual Friday” equals jeans and sneakers—choose better-than-casual shoes, slacks and a casual jacket to demonstrate your professionalism.
- Be polished. A dry cleaner and tailor will help—and don’t wear anything that is revealing, too tight/ill-fitting, or dirty/stained/torn. Iron your shirts, shine your shoes, file and polish your nails, get a good haircut. Carry a high-quality bag. Each small detail adds up. Look like the kind of person an executive would be proud to introduce to a client.
- Be polite. Manners count in business lunches, in thank-you notes and in small interactions. Read a book on modern manners—seriously! When flustered, keep your cool and be nicer than necessary.
- Polish your communications. Send emails that are properly capitalized, spelled and signed. (Don’t lower-case your name or the letter i—this reads a juvenile chat-room behavior.) Double-check documents and communications before sending—a small grammatical error or typo will make you look less smart than you really are, especially if you know better. Continue reading