For many young enthusiasts entering the workforce, there can sometimes be unrealistic expectations of landing that coveted dream job straight out of school, which many of us know usually isn’t the case. And some young professionals assume starting at the bottom is a bad thing.
As a young person, it’s important to remember not only your value and worth, but also that you are new to the workforce and day one in your career is kind of like your first day of school. There is so much to learn before you can just jump right into that senior role you’ve been dreaming of.
So, how do you do this? First, be selective and be picky, but only where it counts! What does that mean, you ask? It means finding the correct industry or organization that aligns with your career goals, and working your way up. Don’t expect to land that senior role you set your sights on when you started out your post-secondary schooling right away. Instead, go for the role that will get you in the door and teach you everything you need to know from the bottom up. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, find ways to learn that are outside of the box and will add value to your career long-term.
Here are some steps that can help you navigate your career and ensure long term success.
- Create a Plan (and write it down!): This might sound simple, but sitting down and writing down your plan is the key to making your career goals real and tangible targets versus abstract thoughts in your mind. Having the plan in writing will put you in a future-focused headspace that allows you to not only change the plan as you grow and learn more about your true self in the workplace, but also meet the short-term deliverables in your current role. It’s helpful to think about your goals in two parts. The first set of goals are easy “two-foot toss” targets that can be achieved and managed weekly or monthly. The second set of goals are stretch goals that may take longer to achieve and may not be in your immediate control. By tackling your goals in two ways, you have more control over your career plan successes in the short-term while managing realistic expectations for the long-term. This is the Career Plan Template that I used when trying to find a direction for my own career. Creating a plan and holding yourself accountable to your goals will set you up for success long-term.
- Find a Mentor: Finding someone you trust to support you in your career goals, who has knowledge and experience in a professional environment can be invaluable as you navigate your career. Sometimes mentors can be from the same industry or field you are targeting, but this does not mean they are the only possible mentors you can target. It’s about the support and guidance you are provided and having a trusted advisor you can lean on when you are navigating next steps. There is so much to think about beyond the daily tasks of a job that making sure you have a sounding board when you are not quite sure where to head next will give you a definite edge and a certain level of understanding you otherwise might not get just coming into work every day hoping to figure it out on your own. Navigating your next move, professional acumen in the office, managing internal politics, or providing confirmation you are on the right path are just some of the areas of support a mentor can assist with.
- Create Opportunities for Learning: Learning in your role is not exclusive to the responsibilities on the job description. If you find yourself sitting at your desk with some spare time, find a colleague working on something you haven’t done and ask if you can help or observe. Take the time to watch the business as it runs day-to-day and see where there may be opportunities for special projects and new learning.
- Be a Solutions-Focused Thinker: Some people say being a “yes” person can end up being a negative thing because it means you can’t say no. Changing that mindset to becoming a solutions-focused contributor is a good thing however. It’s always better to say “yes, I can solve this problem,” than saying “no, there is no solution to this problem.” There is almost always a way to find a solution, even if it’s outside the box. Shifting your thinking in your role to a more positive, solutions-focused approach will not only help you grow as an individual, but also with your peers and managers. By demonstrating you have a solutions-focused mindset, you are telling your organization that any obstacle that comes your way in business will have a solution, and most, if not all, leaders appreciate hearing that than the alternative. This will help build your reputation as a contributor who can think creatively during tough situations and won’t back down from a challenge.
- Advocate for Your Career: Of course, there are people who get promotions who are recognized for their great work, but don’t forget that you also need to ask for what you want in your career! There might be an assumption that you’re doing an excellent job at your current level and are content to stay there. If you want to make the next move, you need to show your skills and advocate for your career. Using your newly-minted career plan as a tool when speaking with your manager will show not only your initiative and growth as an individual, but also your commitment to growing with the business. Show your leaders they can invest in you and retain top talent they can grow and shape to contribute to the overall success of the business.
These are just a few strategies you can incorporate as a young person trying to navigate your career towards that dream job. Although the idea of staying in one company or role for your whole career is no longer common, it is important to know that putting in time at an organization where you can learn and mold your career will help you even if you decide to eventually make a move. Don’t forget how much you have to offer a business even if you are starting from the bottom – this can lead to invaluable learning and long-term benefit for you and your career goals.
Patricia Bexis is a Consultant with Feldman Daxon Partners.
- On August 16, 2017