Managing people

21 Rules for Young Professionals

You just broke into the workforce as a professional.  Your first real job in the real world.  It won’t always be easy to navigate, or obvious what to do.   This list of timeless rules can serve as a guide to anyone hoping to survive their first foray into the life of a young professional.

1.       Understand failure
It is a thing that will happen.  Be prepared for it, and be prepared to learn from it.

2.       Embrace criticism
There’s nothing worse than seeing a person pout after they receive negative feedback.  You’ve just been given an opportunity to get better, use it. 

3.       Live outside of your comfort zone
Hate public speaking? Look for opportunities to speak in public.  No good at writing? Start a blog. 

4.       Stay humble
Everything that you have achieved up to this point is great, but it means a whole lot less if you start to act entitled.  Let your results speak for themselves.

5.       Have confidence in your work
There may be times when you feel like you have no idea what you're doing, but you landed in your role because someone trusted your ability to figure it out.

6.       Be reliable
There's no substitute for being on time, and being prepared.  Whether it's a meeting, a presentation, or drinks after work, show up on time and be organized.

7.       Become an expert in your field
School's over, and the skills you need for your job won’t always come from your education in the classroom.  Taking the initiative to master your role  can be the difference between a job and a career.

8.       Invest in your appearance
A professional appearance means a lot more when you’re 25 and don’t have ten years of workplace performance to back you up.  Nice clothes, shoes, and a haircut are all good places to start.

9.       Keep your work area clean
Whether you are in an office, a cubicle, or working out of your apartment, people can see your workspace and it reflects directly on your professionalism.

10.   Under promise, over deliver
Doing what you say you will do is one of the straightest paths to credibility.  No amount of education or connections will be able to overcome the damage of failing to follow through.

11.   Use your network, and let it use you
Who you know can make a world of difference, especially when you’re starting out.  Ask for help, ask for introductions, and be prepared for people in your network to ask you for the same.

12.   Handle yourself appropriately in social situations
It’s ok to have drinks with colleagues, even a few, but people never forget the time you make a fool of yourself.  One rough night can be a career limiting move.

13.   Always maintain your integrity
Compromising yourself for any short term gain is not an option, it will be outweighed by the repercussions and become a permanent part of your reputation.

14.   Be a great teammate
Help, support, and encourage everyone that you work with.  Whether they are peers, superiors, or interns, everyone is working toward the same goal.

15.   Manage your online presence
One of the first things someone will do when they want to know about you is Google your name.  Clean up Facebook (or make it private), put some time into your LinkedIn, and be responsible on Twitter.

16.   If you don’t know the answer, admit you don’t know
Honesty defines credibility, ignorance will dig a hole you can’t crawl out of.  Telling someone that you will get back to them with an answer will be understood and appreciated.

17.   Get your hands dirty
If you’re asked to do something, do it.  Nothing is below you at this point in your career, and you will learn something from every task you complete.  If you’re stuck doing paperwork for a week, get really good at doing paperwork.

18.   It’s ok to start small
No matter where you start, it will be your persistence, patience, and consistent effort that will lead you to success.

19.   Learn from your mistakes
You will make mistakes, it is normal and acceptable. Mistakes only become problematic if you make the same ones multiple times.

20.   Own your mistakes
When something goes wrong, deflecting responsibility makes your trustworthiness and dependability evaporate.

21.   Be a good person
Everything else in this list is moot if you’re not a good person, and being a good person is the best networking you will ever do.  Help people, volunteer, say thank you, leave a tip, and hold the door open.  You never know who is watching.

Contributors to this post:

@theaearl (Shopify)

@simonwlove (Ernst & Young)

@Marius_Felix (Brentwood College)

@beesureman (CBRE)

@MaxLanePWL (PWL Capital Inc)